Living the Liberal Arts

Only a few years ago, Caitlyn McCain was setting up a blog in English 215 and writing her personal essay on her experiences with writing in school. Today she is blogging alongside Jeffrey Sachs, Ralph Nader, and Patricia McGuire at the Huffington Post. The Huffington Post is read by millions of readers, and the Huff Post College pages are frequented by tens of thousands of people.

Last week, our very own Teaching Assistant Caitlyn posted her first essay on HuffPost College.called “The Advantage of a Liberal Arts Living Space” describes the heady life of a student on a campus that values the liberal arts. The essay is a semi-promotional piece written for the Keene State College community in her internship at the KSC Marketing and Communications Office.

As a professor at a public liberal arts college, I appreciated Caitlyn’s glimpse into the experience of “living the liberal arts” at a school that values more than preparation for the specialized tasks of a professional life. I recently read an essay by Cecelia Gaposchkin in the November/December issue of the Dartmouth Alumni Magazine in which she calls for all of us to share the meaning and value of the liberal arts in an age when specialization appears to be the coin of the college realm. In “Train the Brain,” Gaposchkin argues that the liberal arts are a “means to stoke curiosity, promote critical thinking, and, simply put, make you smarter” (26). A liberal arts education, she goes on to say, “teaches you to distinguish between fact and opinion and to use facts to pursued informed agendas. These skills are sharpened first in the context of an area of major study, but the point is that they are basic transferable skills, to be used in any—or many—contexts. This is why,” she adds, “when employers hire students from liberal arts colleges, they care less about the student’s major than about the student’s ability to talk about his or her major.”

This line of thinking makes a lot of sense the more you spend time with students whose lives after College unfold in unpredictable ways. It also should make sense to students who, as Caitlyn points out, are experiencing “how beneficial a liberal arts living space is to you—not only as a student, but also as a person.”