Degrees of success

By Andy Garrison

October 30, 2012

Most students today appear to think that college is just a place to come after high school, get a degree and move on. Most students today are wrong. As I walk the halls of Missouri Western, with my bag full of so many books it feels like I have a body thrown over my shoulder, inevitably some whisper winds its way into my consciousness to damage my calm. "Why do I have to study English?" "It’s got nothing to do with my degree!" Such words generally slipping from the mouths of people who have spent so much on credit cards and unnecessary loans that they should run for Congress. If one truly wants to remain single-minded, and never open one’s self up to becoming a more complete individual with multiple tools and critical skills, and instead have one thing that pertains to their degree constantly burned into their minds, perhaps go to a seminary and study theology, I hear they are pretty good at that. The history of college, especially one of the liberal arts, has always been more about expanding your base; not necessarily to just come and study a single field and then be vomited out into the workforce. If one doesn’t want to take my word for it, I would be happy to supply some credible validation. An article entitled "College of Letters & Science from Berkeley University" states, “To be liberally educated is to be transformed. A liberal arts education frees your mind and helps you connect dots you never noticed before, so you can put your own field of study into a broader context. It enables you to form opinions and judgments, rather than defer to an outside authority.” To go back a bit further, a statement from Albert Einstein goes on to back up this claim. “The value of an education in a liberal arts college is not the learning of many facts but the training of the mind to think something that cannot be learned from textbooks,” Einstein said. To defer back to the English specific proclamation that initially pushed my buttons, I have never learned more about critical thinking and analysis in my entire life than I learned in a single semester of Dana Andrews' writing and rhetoric class. Even though, at the time, it was not something that I felt was specific to my degree, I firmly believe if I had not taken his class it would be kind of like operating on one lung. I could still survive in my field just fine, but I wouldn’t be running any marathons. We have choices when it comes to our education. One is not lashed to a liberal arts college to get a degree. If one simply wants to study degree specific courses for four years, mucking through their studies, turning in half-assed work because they were told to, more pissed off then turned on about their education, and wearing all that disdain on their face as they whisper about how horrible it all is; perhaps a liberal arts college just isn’t for you.