Applications to Colleges Such as St. John's Are Dropping As the Downturn Leads Families to Weigh the Value, And Price, of a Liberal Arts Degree More Carefully.
This article is from today's Washington Post (August 27. 2009):
I certainly understand the struggle of LA education in this sort of environment. Unfortunately, I think that they are fighting a losing battle when they claim that a LA education is “practical” and gives “tools for life”. I don’t know if that is correct and I don’t think it is a selling point. It’s much like University of Dallas trying to field a baseball team to compete with Texas Tech or SMU – ain’t gonna happen.
More to the point, though, I still am unconvinced that the praxis of liberal arts education is that strong. Praxis always speaks to utility, practicality, what are you gonna “do with” that degree in (insert LA field here)? When it comes down to it, LA education is impractical b/c it encourages the mind/soul/nous to pursue beauty, goodness, truth with ardor – not to use verum bonum pulchrum for some practical end. Such pursuit and contemplation ultimately is liberating; makes the freeman out of the slave, b/c it broadens the mind to see vaster vistas than before.
But liberation, though one of the main goals of the education, can’t actually succeed unless the student pursues knowledge with abandonment of any practical return; a certain ecstasy of sorts has to happen.
Therefore, I think LA education is as impractical as love.
Though it isn’t a big selling point to say “we offer an utterly impractical course of study” – ne’theless, if we make the modus operandi for study a praxis we have debased the finest and noblest of pursuits into something base and selfish; just as if we attribute to love a selfish motive, the promise of gain or some irresistible drive of biology we no longer have love, merely a weaker form of power.