04 July 2008

A personal view of a liberal arts education, part 1

University of LethbridgeNot that I obsess over the amount of traffic this blog gets, but I couldn't help but notice that it spiked yesterday. The number of people visiting went up. A lot.

I think this due to landing on a list of Top 100 Liberal Arts professor blogs.

I don't know that the content of this blog particularly screams out, "Liberal arts!" I am kind of pleased, though, as I do consider myself a product of a liberal arts education, and I do try to continue to incorporate liberal arts principles into some of the teaching I now do.

What I consider to be the essence of a liberal arts education is breadth. It's the study of different disciplines with the understanding that one can and often does inform and enrich understanding of the others.

I did my undergraduate degree at the University of Lethbridge (pictured), which then, as now, advertises itself as giving a liberal arts education. One of the things I am pleased about in having received my degree there is that I have a Bachelor of Arts and Science -- although it's abbreviated as B.Sc., it is in both fields, and indicates the breadth I had in my education. I'm not sure if that option is still available now.

I took acting classes, which helped me when I started giving presentations as a graduate student, because I knew how to project my voice. And I'm convinced that provided scaffolding for my lecturing and presentations today.

I took courses in philosophy, particularly logic, ethics, philosophy of science. In particular, I took some course in philosophy of biology that turned out to be very useful when I jumped ship from psychology to biology in my graduate work.

Of course, there were times when the cross-disciplinary nature worked against me. There was one semester where the writing of Karl Marx appeared prominently in every single class I was taking -- including unlikely locations like statistics. Mentioning Marx sent me into a fetal position by the end of the semester.

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