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Why Liberal Arts?

Liberal Arts

The greatest enterprise of the human mind has been to search for a unification of science and humanities. Liberal arts tradition takes its roots in this endeavor. Liberal arts flourished during two epochs in history. The early Greek period (600-300 BC), that is usually associated with famous texts (Literature), also saw the great scientific efforts made by Archimedes, Ptolemy, Pythagoras, Euclid among others, and that laid the foundation of mathematics and sciences. The later period of Renaissance (1300 – 1600 AD) that is generally associated with Arts also belongs to Shakespeare, Galileo, Kepler, Tycho Brahe among others.

What is intriguing is the simultaneous flourishing of science, arts, and literature, and this is even more interesting if one sees centuries of gap between the two epochs. If the traditions in science and arts are truly independent why would they wait the same amount of time to grow again, even if we assume the first period was a coincidence. Pythagoras imagining Universe as a giant musical instrument, and centuries later Kepler showing the harmony of Spheres (Solar system) is no coincidence. Even stronger evidence linking arts and sciences can be found in an accurate depiction of cannonball trajectories by Leonardo da Vinci. Aesthetics only didn’t guide Leonardo`s desire to draw women and children in great details, it was his way to understand nature by observing it in great details. This desire for detail can be seen in his other works on engineering and human anatomy too.

We are now in the third epoch after the early Greeks and the Renaissance. The two traditions of arts and science are merging again. Developments in science and technology have led to a rapid increase in easy access to factual knowledge to masses and are more and more affordable. Faster network and increasing affordability of technology are bringing information on screens of our TV sets, Computers, mobile phones. Therefore, 21st century will not be led by people who have access to information but those who can combine it. By people who can synthesize apparently different information, think critically about it and make the right decision. A liberal arts education can fulfill the need of this modern society.

Professor Sanjay Jhingan teaching mathmatics at iCLA
Professor Michael Lacktorin teaching at iCLA

Why Study Liberal Arts?

  • A curriculum which offers a broad foundation while allowing students to go in depth in their declared major.
  • An interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary approach to education can help students build multiple viewpoints. This very important in a rapidly changing world with no “right” answers to important questions.
  • Small classroom size nurturing a close student faculty interaction that can be very important in formative years of undergraduate students.
  • Active learning classroom environment makes student see `other viewpoints` and a chance to assess their own viewpoint.
  • A liberal arts education with its focus on class participation, writing papers, and thinking critically prepares its students well for graduate studies as well a modern active office environment.
  • Liberal arts students have natural writing, communication and teamwork skills. Their ability to adjust in a culturally diverse environments and deal with multiple viewpoints make them ideal employees.
  • A Liberal arts college is usually a close-knit community making it a home away from home, adding depth to college experience.

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