Response to an Emailwebdev
Below is an actual email that I received last week. After I responded, I thought it would be worthwhile to share the email and the response.
Begin forwarded message:
From: Devirl Barfuss
Date: September 29, 2012 8:12:30 AM MDT
Subject: Re: Why Liberal Arts and Why Monticello College?
I have followed you since Cedar City and point students your direction as a serious option to traditional college. The decline of public ed and the increase in home ed certainly bodes well for post secondary ed like that being offered at Monticello College.
Without question, leadership education is critical. This article, however, gave me the impression that you believe that liberal arts should be taught at the expense of math, science, business, etc.
I was pre-med for two years at a very fine community college and then switched to business (med school was too expensive for me) for the last three years at BYU.
The combination of the science discipline, the business (organization development emphasis) orientation and the leadership experience as a service club officer prepared me pretty well for the business world.
I fear an over emphasis on liberal arts, to the exclusion of math and science, may turn away some potentially strong students.
Thanks for thinking out loud about this. The real issue here is the definition of the liberal arts. The items below are all vital to a solid liberal arts education. So the question is, how do we at MC specifically treat science and math?
Subjects Covered in Our 4-year Liberal Arts Degree:
• Political Science
• Political Economy
• Fine Arts
• Comparative Religious Studies
• International Relations
• Negotiation and Diplomacy
• Constitutional Law
• Current Events
• Protocol and Etiquette
• Public Policy
• Foreign Language
Nearly all college graduates are required to pass algebra or some higher math to graduate. However, how many college grads can actually solve math problems beyond basic arithmetic? Very few. Why?
Because like so many college courses, a student can skate through a class and secure a passing grade (C or even sometimes a D) without knowing or understanding much about the material.
This “we don’t know that we don’t know” way of life is becoming our common culture. The other day I overheard a person talking about the lack of math prowess in America, “we don’t really need math skills anymore, we just have to pick a box.”
The same is true for science (group projects where there is a collective grade, extra credit or make-up work for students who do poorly, can all lead to a passing grade but little or no grasp on the subject).
At MC, all graduates must show understanding and proficiency in arithmetic, algebra and geometry. Higher math is available upon request. This means that every graduate has proven a level of real world adaptability and working knowledge unheard of in the general population of college and university graduates.
Coupled with classroom time, students learn math by doing, whether it is planning crop rotation and seed needs, calculating the amount of feed needed for the fish and other animals, or it might be developed while engaging in campus construction projects.
Using this hands-on approach, little is forgotten in later life.
Imagine a society where 75% of the adults completely understand how to use a checkbook and can fully grasp bank statements and understand the lasting ramifications of credit card interest rates.
Envision citizens who understand the math used to calculate mortgages, car payments, and Wall Street investments. Consider the impact of American adults who can calculate the cost of government policy and bailouts on their own without interpretation.
This is a world that we can only imagine.
Science is taught from the same perspective at MC. All science is taught in a hands-on, everyday manner.
Graduates have a good working knowledge of:
Animal Anatomy and Husbandry
A working knowledge in these fields is acquired by our students while engaged in real-world projects and everyday campus living.
One of the definitive sources of our liberal arts curriculum is the Great Books of the Western World. Along with history, law, philosophy and literature, are science titles such as:
Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres(Copernicus)
Harmonies of the World (Kepler)
Scientific Treaties (Pascal)
Hippocratic Writings (Hippocrates)
On the Natural Faculties (Galen)
The Two New Sciences (Galileo)
Treaties on Light (Huygens)
Elements of Chemistry (Lavoisier)
Analytical Theory of Heat (Fourier)
Experimental Researches in Electricity (Faraday)
So you see, the currently used definition of liberal arts has been so diminished as to be a mere shadow of its former self. The definition we use is the one that has been used in the promotion Western Civilization for the past 3,000 years.
As for the campus, we are taking a very different approach to the physical plant for the college.
Monticello College is a different kind of school. We have a different mission and goal than most other colleges. We have a different kind of environment and lifestyle. We have a different kind of faculty and curriculum.
The MC campus lifestyle; or rather, how we live on campus, the day-to-day goings on, are designed specifically to develop a certain type of citizen. To do this we have created a living environment that stresses the advancement of five specific character qualities:
An awareness of needs versus wants
A sense of disinterestedness
Innovation and creativity
Personal and group self-reliance
As part of this process, the campus is adequate but austere. Boasting plentiful nourishment and accommodations, but limited in processed foods and the use of cultural technology. Most of our classes are held out of doors. We are an active and productive farm that incorporates the academics of the liberal arts, the development of utility technology, the self-confidence building of wilderness survival and self-sustainability.
Leadership education is more than the study of literature, history, philosophy, and rhetoric, it incorporates all of the subjects and disciplines necessary to produce men and women of virtue, wisdom, diplomacy, courage, with skill sets for solving problems, innovation and creativity, a sense of disinterstedness (a blog on this word coming soon), an awareness of personal and community needs versus mere wants and desires, an ability to provide personal and group self-reliance, and a strong sense of community service.
Whether the career future of our students is farmer, factory worker, the corporate world, or entrepreneurship, the skills, knowledge and wisdom developed during their stay at Monticello College will find them more than adequate to the challenge.