What does it mean to be a person who’s described as “well-rounded” in terms of higher educational attributes? National universities often proclaim that a college curriculum that emphasizes liberal arts shapes individuals into responsible citizens. Useful background knowledge ultimately grows as we tackle humanity in such ways.
In essence, many feel that students attending universities should not be pigeonholed into specific areas. Conversely, students should have necessary instruction in which they learn the dynamics of poetry, novels (both modern and classic), mythology and other diverse topics in the field as opposed to other, more mechanical areas.
While being well-rounded is ideal, it is in truth not always pragmatic in the work force. Someone who is exceptionally gifted in solving complex equations and engineering need not have complete understanding of all of the stanzas of John Keats’ poetry.
In the same vein, someone who deeply enjoys the philosophical doctrines of Jean-Paul Sartre will probably not benefit from forced study and memorization of algebraic and advanced geometric functions. As such, reevaluations of priorities in the educational system are a long time coming. While the goal of creating balanced students is understandable, it may prove detrimental instead.
The view of liberal arts as higher ranking than others in importance is highly subjective. While I agree that creativity in modern society is dependent upon expertise in this arena, biases clearly cloud my judgment, as these topics of study are a favorite of mine.
It’s no surprise that other people, when faced with the task of studying topics of no practical value to them, will be frustrated by being forced to undergo rigorous training that is ultimately unnecessary. Scientists and mathematicians with wide-ranging prospects for the future will probably not benefit from the study of an area outside of the scope of what makes them unique.
Despite certain assertions made by officials and professionals at many institutions that study of the liberal arts is a necessary step towards becoming a “well-rounded individual,” these ideas simply cannot hold true for students of every major.
Nowadays, as the financial burden and personal expense incurred by academic institutions is skyrocketing, it is impractical to require certain courses and areas of expertise that may or may not be valuable in one’s life. At a younger age and within grade school, encouraging a balanced curriculum was far more necessary for development and knowledge. By this point in time many people have already established clear personal and professional interests that are likely to make an required egalitarian curriculum unnecessary and time-consuming.
Now, I’m not proclaiming that the government should offer university education free of charge to all students! (But, wouldn’t that be nice?) On the other hand, it is not really wise to encourage all college students to pursue a wide array of subjects that simply strike their fancy, rather than courses that seem most likely to lead to jobs in a realistic sense.
Particular strengths and weaknesses vary from person to person. Education is undeniably important, yet requiring specific types of education is both forced and erroneously assumes the superiority of one set of subjects over another. Rather than relying on an all-encompassing policy, we certainly need to take a closer glance at the goals and individual needs served by academia.