With course enrollments around the corner, Syracuse University students are no stranger to the universitys Liberal Arts Core curriculum. While many students see the requirement as unnecessary, they are overlooking the principles upon which liberal arts curriculums were established. Requiring a multidisciplinary and well-rounded education encourages students to open their minds to new ideas, engage in productive civil discourse and think deeply about the reality that we find ourselves in today.
In a column published by The Daily Orange on March 23, 2022, one columnist majoring in political science said that their natural science courses have no real value to (their) life or career outside of SU. But natural science courses are inherently valuable because they educate us on the physical realities of the world we live in. If the aforementioned columnist ever actually works in politics or government, a basic understanding of scientific principles is necessary to make educated decisions.
A background in both the sciences and humanities is needed to ensure that the next generation of leaders have the tools necessary to deal with the complex problems that are inherent in life.
As Harvard history professor Annette Gordon-Reed puts it, (the sciences and humanities) areas are critical to producing citizens who can participate effectively in our democratic society, become innovative leaders and benefit from the spiritual enrichment that the contemplation of ethics, morals, aesthetics and the great ideas over time can provide.
For example, engineers may benefit from previous coursework in philosophy to envision the ethical ramifications of artificial intelligence while a lawyer litigating a patent could gain from prior exposure to the sciences and engineering.
Additionally, the purpose of seeking further education should be motivated by a desire to learn, not just to receive a diploma or further ones career. A college education allows a person to become an educated and multifaceted member of society.
Many students who oppose the liberal arts curriculum do not appreciate disciplines other than what theyre studying. Such students fail to recognize how all areas of study are interconnected. Exposure to the grounding principles of all subjects allows students to use doctrines from all disciplines to further their understanding of their main field of study.
This past semester, I was reminded of the importance of a multidisciplinary education in my international trade theory and policy course. Professor Ryan Monarch exposed us to how Jan Tinbergen, an economist trained in physics, used an analogy with Newtons universal law of gravitation to describe the patterns of trade flows between two countries.
Luckily, I was previously exposed to classical mechanics throughout my high school education and freshman year of college, making it easy for me to understand Tingbergens thought process. However, students who did not receive training in the physical sciences in the past may not have drawn the connection Tinbergen was trying to make and might have found it more difficult to deeply understand his line of reasoning.
The flexibility that a background in multiple subjects provides allows students to make connections they otherwise would not see. Thus, the versatility that a strong liberal arts education provides benefits the student not only in their current studies but also as they continue to ponder critical questions and in whatever path they choose to pursue after graduating.
A liberal arts education is meant to train students to become critical thinkers and educated members of society. The Liberal Arts Core at SU fails to live up to this mission. At SU, students are able to fulfill the requirement with no education on the Newtonian physics that describe our physical world and without even reading some of the most influential texts known to humankind such as Platos Republic, or Homers The Iliad and The Odyssey.
Perhaps the only problem with the current liberal arts requirement is that it fails to challenge the students intellectually. After all, the previously mentioned columnist described students fulfilling the requirement as, bored, unmotivated and uninterested in the subject matter.
Therefore, in the interest of educating well-rounded and respected students, the administration should reform the current liberal arts curriculum by expanding it in breadth and depth, and ultimately making it more challenging and interesting to students.
Gil Markman is a sophomore economics major. His column appears biweekly. He can be reached at [emailprotected].
Published on April 13, 2022 at 6:50 pm
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