As we draw nearer to the end of the semester, and simultaneously graduation, the deadlines pile up as the weather (hopefully) gets warmer. This is crunch time for our Capstone projects, and it can be easy to lose sight of your vision amongst the the ever increasing stimuli being thrown at us as life accelerates our way.
All of that introduction was to say that we were given an assignment to reinforce our current drafts, under a tab titled “Draft Development.” Since I have been having a difficult time with the scope of my project (a comedic video series about the problems with a liberal arts education and the University of Michigan in general), I chose the mini assignment titled “Expanding definitions.”
This prompt challenged us to take a key term from our project and write 500 words that elaborated on the specific concepts we wanted to address. I started with my base words: “liberal arts education.” I wanted to look at how I was defining it, how others used it, and what were the holes in it that I was trying to address.
The American Association of Colleges and Universities defines it as such: Liberal Arts Education is an approach to learning that empowers individuals and prepares them to deal with complexity, diversity, and change. It provides students with broad knowledge of the wider world (e.g. science, culture, and society) as well as in-depth study in a specific area of interest. A liberal education helps students develop a sense of social responsibility, as well as strong and transferable intellectual and practical skills such as communication, analytical and problem-solving skills, and a demonstrated ability to apply knowledge and skills in real-world settings.
I want to address how this functions in a capitalist society, and how students pay the colleges money for an education, but additionally, to be prepared for the workforce, and the ways a liberal arts education might fail in the latter.
And while I find merit in all of those things, I want to discuss the implications of how this definition has been applied at the University of Michigan. For example, a main problem I have with LSA degree requirements is the language requirement. I was required to take 4 classes of a foreign language, perhaps giving me a broader knowledge of the wider world, but I could have used this for more production classes in my Screen Arts class, which benefits me more for a future position in the entertainment industry than a foreign language could.
By positioning the ideals of a liberal arts education, which are essentially universally good, against the cost of college and its function as a minor leagues for the workforce, I can examine the ways a liberal arts education and the college setting is either beneficial or detrimental (economically, even physically or emotionally) to a person’s ability to progress into the job market and adulthood.