In Frank Bruni’s article Colleges Priceless Value, he talks about his experience of how his favorite class in college focused on Shakespeare’s works, and yet it did not apply to his future career in any way. I think that that statement alone has an abundance of irony in how structured the education system is. We tend to correlate content as the relatable piece, rather than how we are taught to articulate or make inferences in the course. While an anatomy class is a perfect fit for someone who wants to be a doctor, the same person can develop critical thinking in a literature class that will allow them to think outside the box and analyze the content on a different level.
A year and a half ago as I was planning my first year schedule at Orientation, I was so mad I had to take a series of classes in the General Education Program. Those classes had nothing to do with my major at the time, and I saw no need for classes that weren’t going to apply to anything in my future. Boy was I wrong. In my rhetoric class my first semester, I had an instructor that truly changed my life and way of thinking. He provided a curriculum that dug into the many social, societal, and campus issues while also providing a backbone of argumentation and knowledge about literature. I learned so much about the college campus issue of sexual assault, and tied it into a short story writing piece – still my favorite assignment i’ve written at Iowa. As a class we also dug into our different identities and shared with one another our stories. I became aware of my privileges, and underrepresented and underserved identities of people in our society. A class that I dreaded as I placed it on my schedule absolutely changed my life and how I see the world and the people around me. That experience didn’t come from a Statistics class or a Chemistry class, it came from a liberal arts education.
In The Hinchinger Report, Marvin Krislov writes about his own experiences as a president of a liberal arts college, and the importance of a liberal arts education. I really enjoyed this quote from his article
..we prepare students to lead meaningful, considered lives, to flourish in multiple careers, and to be informed, engaged citizens of their communities and the world. By studying languages and literature, for example, students gain insight into other cultures, and learn to see the world from multiple perspectives. In a global economy, those are powerful assets.
While bias, Krislov brings in a great point about how finding employment is tough, and there is always a trial of learning. The job market is always changing and requires employees that are comfortable with change and continuing learning in their everyday life. When we take the time to learn about someone or something other than ourselves, we are able to learn holistically and live a more meaningful life.
I think that a class like Literature, which focuses on Shakespeare’s plays can teach us much more if we look at them as a different perspective than our own. When we are able to step into the story of King Lear, we find themes that are similar to things we experience today. The role of gender, and how that contributes to society is still something we are talking about today – and a big theme in the play of King Lear. And of course the huge theme of love, and the power of love or lack of love in our lives. While King Lear isn’t 100% relatable, it allows us to dig in much deeper to a world outside of our own. We are able to think in a way that we aren’t normally taught to, broadening the way we view the world.
I am glad to be able to have the background knowledge in my future career that I have gained in taking classes like “Media and Society” where I learned about the way media affects Americans and our lives. Or “American Politics”, which provided me with a background of how democracy in America came to be. Classes like these don’t pertain to my future career directly on paper, but they definitely will make a difference in the citizen I am to our society and the way I see the world.