A Modern Day Liberal Arts Program
If there is one major lesson that we can learn living in this world, it is the fact of impermanence of everything. The world is constantly in a flux, forever fluid, as well as the reality that humanity must face in his day to day battle to live a decent, comfortable life. Everything is changing. If we would borrow a cliche to describe it, the appropriate one is time is achanging. And during this time when a lot of changes are taking place, there is the importance and need that the programs in our colleges to keep abreast with these changes.
Failure to do so will only lead to another failure which is a shortcoming in educating our students to prepare then to face the realities of the outside world. In the case of Liberal Arts Programs, the issue stated above is more than appropriate.
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Lest we forget, Liberal Arts was founded by scholars whose aim is to maximize and develop the intellectual capacity of its students. The word Liberal in latin means libera which means free. The goal of liberal arts then is to free its student from the bondage of ignorance.
This is the reason why in the basic curriculum in any liberal arts program subjects like language, literature, philosophy and mathematics are included. The reason for this is to enhance the higher faculty of its students and nurture their ability to be well-verse with the outside world and at the same time of the possibilities of what role they will play in society. The role of Liberal Arts program in general under a setting of a democratic system is the fulfillment of every man’s intellectual potential for growth and development.
Understanding that the democratic system bestows on man his rights for equality, liberty and freedom, the part played by Liberal Arts colleges towards these goals is to empower the individual to exercise these innate rights given to him by the form of this political setup. Through the programs offered by Liberal Arts, an individual is given the right tools to have the capacity to think and express his ideas that is beneficial in his pursuit of personal development and progress.
The result of the process then is that it uplifts the spirit of the person as an individual and simultaneously shapes him to be a productive participant in the society that he will be a part of. At the same time the effect of this on the society at large is the encouragement on the whole organization to advance in its ability to think. Advancement in the way the society think will bring an outcome where the society can find resolution to the challenges it faces in the fast changing world.
Nevertheless, the question that lingers in the face of an ever-changing world is: Is the curriculum offered by Liberal Arts programs enough to keep students prepared to realize their potential once they leave the confine of campus life? The answer to this is very obvious. Though the basic curriculum that is included in the program gives the student the basic skills in cerebral endeavor and basic knowledge to participate effectively in society, there is still the need for it to be flexible and open to other disciplines to make it relevant to the changing world.
In today’s changing terrain of realities, there are two points that students of this Liberal Arts Program will have to deal with in order to grow and be equipped with the right tools for them to function and participate in the outside world. One is communication and the other one is technology. Why communication and technology. On a cursory look the two seems wide apart. The first one is almost intangible while the latter is concrete and definite. One may even conclude that technology is far from the aim and mission of any liberal arts curriculum.
Yet, on a closer look the two complement with each other. There is a need to master the basics of communication thorough which technology will be used as the tool to convey it. What then are the benefits of program for the student and to the society at large? One, the vision which the program has set for each student is for him to be an all-around person who can participate in the outside world with right tools to keep at pace with the changing world, especially in this age of Information Revolution.
As for the society at large, the benefit it can derive from this program is the actualization of everything that was taught in liberal arts classroom to be performed by its student in the outside world. Society can sow the fruits of labor of every student of the program. In a gist, this Liberal Arts Program will aim on what Knoblauch says about the uses of literacy, that it never stands alone, that it is always used for something – “for professional competence in the technological world, for civic responsibility and the preservation of heritage, for personal growth and self fulfillment, for social and political change” (220).
Communication The main goal as to the focus of the program towards communication is obviously the intent of propagating literacy among young people. If we follow what Hirsch said in his study, the literacy rate in United States is only around 66% (2). It is therefore right to conclude that that there are basically one third of the population of the country who are illiterate. The program then will aim at equipping the students with skills that can make them speak well, write well and understand how to convey and relay their thoughts and ideas to others and to the society they are part of. How can these ends be met through the program?
In the program under the light of communication, a curriculum which will include subjects on right speech and writing will be designed. These issues can be addressed by the inclusion of speech subjects with the objective of training the students in the right manner of being an effective communicator. Speech. There are already in some Liberal Arts programs that include this subject of speech in their curriculum. In this program the same will be applied but with a new philosophy in treating the subject so that the maximum potential of the student can be reached as soon as possible in the course of the program.
The approach would be the utilization of 95% of the class hours in the honing and speech practices to be given to the students. The pattern of teaching then would be breathing exercises during the start of the class. After this and throughout the long duration of the semester, the students will be called to present a prepared speech in front of the class, a speech with the duration of five minutes. This will happen throughout the course. Applying this method of teaching how to speak properly in front of an audience will develop at the same time the confidence of the student to fight stage fright.
Meanwhile, the final examination for the course will be an extemporaneous speech by which each student, gaining already the confidence to stand in front of an audience, will be taught the experience of speaking their minds out in a comprehensible and structured format. The grading for this course will be unlike in any other speech subject. Since the usual gauge of the instructor in this case is lumping the whole class into one and giving the highest grade to the one who stand out among the rest, this will not be the system for this subject.
Since the instructor is observing and sitting at the back of the classroom most of the time, he will grade each student according to his progress in the curriculum. Since a semester is long enough for a student to take several times to stand in front of the class to speak, the basis whether the student passes the subject is whether he has improved in his speaking skills. Writing. It is well known that in every Liberal Arts program there entails an intensive training for writing.
It is even said that without focus on this aspect of such a program is a sure doom for the whole curriculum altogether. Writing is the most difficult form of communication since it takes a lot of practice and discipline in order to put what one has in mind into written words. Many have tried to design different approaches on how to address this and how to imbue it as a college experience for students. There are a hundred methods applied to teach writing in school and so far there are only a handful or a small percentage of those who are taught who came out as good writer.
In this program concerning writing, there will only be two types of writing skills that will be given priority and importance. One is essay writing and the second one is creative writing. Essay Writing. As I have said there are many approaches tried on this subject to attain the goal that the students gain the skill of writing well. There are many colleges which tried to start-up the writing development of student by applying the formula of instructing their students to put their ideas into writing. But in this program, the approach will be different.
Part of the syllabus will be for each student to write different kinds of essays. These are assignments that will be scheduled for the students to submit to the professor during the course of the semester. This scheme is only the tip of the iceberg in teaching the students how to write. First, to let the student feel the words and see how his ideas are transformed into written texts, part of the daily activity of the students in this subject is the creation of what you called a “morning page” paper.
This paper will be written continuously for half an hour with the instruction to the student to write everything he thinks or sees or smells or anything that comes to his mind during that session. Grammar, systax, punctuation and sentences structure in this activity are not considered. There are no right tenses here or correct English. The point of the exercise is to make the student flex his writing muscles. Another part of the activity that will be included in this course is the creation of a journal by every student.
It must be clear to the student that to learn how to write one must practice it as regular as possible. And there is no regular activity that will force to the student to write by keeping a journal. Creative Writing. As part of the growth of the student a creative writing class will be designed to encourage him to use his creativity in expressing himself. They say the most difficult kind of writing is the creative one. So why then torture these students of the program to undergo a rigorous writing training that would make their nose bleed?
The answer to this question is the simple learning process that the brain adjusts to the difficulty of the task and keeps at par with it. The analogy that I will use for this case is the simple game of playing chess against a computer. If the player would start at the most difficult and professional level of the chess game, it is of course expected that the a notice player will lose hundreds of times. Yet, at the same time this failure to beat the computer in a chess game will give the player hints and samples of how to play the game decisively.
Sooner or later the player will adapt to the playing style of the computer and will experience his first win. Used to playing with the highest level the computer can offer, the player then will find it easy to play the lower level skill of the computer. Applied in the case of writing and considering that creative writing is the most difficult style of writing, if the student learns to use his language to write a creative piece, it is conclusive to say that any form of writing then will be easy on his part since he has already mastered the most difficult one.
It is like sparring out with a heavyweight then fighting a featherweight will then be easy. This course will take two semesters to complete, during the Fall and Spring semester. Part of the activities here will be on the sport story writing exercises, several sessions of rewriting a previous written assignment. And for the final examination of the students, a short story that runs in 15 pages will be submitted to the professor for evaluation on the progress of the student. Also, as part of the curriculum, the students will be given reading list for the two semesters.
This reading list will be novels of classic and contemporary writers of fiction. The genre for the novels does not matter. It may be a pulp fiction, speculative fiction, modernist novels or any other types. From this list the students will choose which they wanted to read for their development in writing a short story. There are three objectives by which this course is chosen and included in the curriculum. First is for the student to learn how to handle his language, second is for him to express himself creatively and the third is for him to write better.
Technology Since one of the changes that are fast shaping the terrain of reality and the human society at large is the advent of the Information Revolution, it is appropriate that the curriculum being offered by Liberal Arts includes courses that will enhance the ability of the students to keep abreast with this innovation in technology. Right now, the role played by information technology has encroached on almost every aspect of everyday lives of the modern man.
Since the core objective of any Liberal Arts program is to free the students from the bondage of ignorance and prepare him with the realities of the outside world, inclusion of technology in the curriculum is not at all unexpected. Instead, it is totally anticipated to be the course of action of every program. One of the subjects that will fall under this category of technology in the curriculum of this specific Liberal Arts Program is the basic introduction on computer technology. Most colleges have incorporated in their curriculum the use of computer to their students, like how to use word processor, spreadsheets and slide presentation.
But this approach under the light of the fast integration of information technology in the lives of the modern man is already passe if not outdated altogether. Teaching a student how to use the computer right now is like teaching him how to operate his television set. It is already given that young people who are going into colleges are well adept with the use of computer. The role that the Liberal Arts Program will take is to push the knowledge of the student beyond from what is already known about information technology.
The program then will include in its curriculum basic knowledge on computer hardware like repair and troubleshooting. Included also in the curriculum is the study of how to use the most popular software as of the present time. I said present time since this subject in computer software should be flexible to change at any given time to adjust to the fast pace innovations in information technology. Applying the popular Moore’s Law that the rate of progress of technology is rapid (ebrary Inc, 28) in this equation is appropriate.
Computers are expected to perform calculations that doubles every two years, it must be anticipated that what is useful now will be passe and outdate in a couple of years. Grading System There have been many debates regarding the best grading system that ought to be applied in gauging the intellectual progress of every student. In this program, the grading system that will be followed by the instructors and the professors will sit on the foundation that the best gauge of intellectual capacity and development of the student is the progress he shows in the class and in the array of activities designed in the curriculum.
It must be understood that the maturity of learning capacity of each student varies from each other considering students are different in their intellectual levels. The role that instructors and professors in the program then will be demanding and laborious since the process and discernment of what grade should get will be on their total evaluation of the student’s progress in their subjects. This grading system will be applied principally in the two major concerns of this program: communication and technology. This kind of grading system is specifically appropriate to be applied in the speech and writing classes.
Since these skills take time to be developed, it will be proper if the grading system is according to the progress that the student is making in the course. Take as an example the subject of writing essays. Though everybody in the class is taking the subject for the first time, some may have already an experience in writing that can give them an edge in earning a higher grade. To give each student the chance to get a good grade on the subject, each will be graded according to the development and how fast the student has instilled in himself the craft of writing.
Moreover, grading each student according to his progress will put the focus of on imbuing the skill rather than merely getting a high mark for the course. The advantage of this grading scheme is the fact that the priority of the student is how to improve his skills in the art of writing. When the goal of the course is focused on the improvement of the student in learning the craft rather than merely getting a good grade, the effect or result of this is the continuance of learning experience even if the course is already over.
Since the student is oriented towards the goal of improving his skills and not just on the temporary and limited goal of earning a good mark, the writing experience is expected to continue until the student is already out of the campus. Knowing for a fact that writing better and effectively per se cannot be taught in a single or couple of semester, one of the main goal then of the course is for the student to continue putting effort to hone his skills in the endeavor of writing until his older and professional years.
Though this scheme somewhat will be applied sparingly in the course of subjects concerning technology. Since the subjects are more concrete and mechanic in nature, the progress alone of the student in the curriculum will not suffice to gauge his effort in trying to learn the course. Conclusion The objective of any Liberal Arts program is to bring to freedom from ignorance each student that will take the course. At the same time, the program is designed with the primary goal of giving the student tools with which to face and participate in the outside world of the campus.
These tools take the forms of skills like effective speech and deftness in writing craft and knowledge in the new technology abundant in the present age of ours. These skills will help the student be a better player and participant in the society once he is already outside the campus. The good about the program is that it complements the setup in a democratic society where each individual is given his right to pursue equality, liberty and freedom from ignorance. The curriculum that this program will focus on will be communication and technology since these two disciplines also complement each other.
Skills in speech and writing will be given the great emphasis while technology through the instruction of how computer works will also be given an importance. The grading system also by which the student will be evaluated will sit on the foundation of looking on the progress of the student rather than meeting the expectation of the instructor or professor. The advantage of this grading scheme is the re-alignment of priority for the student to look at the curriculum as a means to enhance his skills rather than merely getting high marks.
Another point of this is the fact that the skills and discipline that the student may imbue on the whole program will be continued to be practiced even if he is already outside the boundary of the campus. Work Cited ebrary, Inc. Computer Science: Reflections on the Field, Reflections from the Field. Washington, DC, National Academies Press, 2004 Knoblauch, C. H. “Literacy and the Politics of Education”. Composing Knowledge. Ed:Rolf Norgaard. Boston, New York. Bedford/St. Martin, 2007. pp. (198-209). Hirsch, E. D. “Cultural Literacy”. Boston. Houghton Mifflin Company, 1987 Annotated Bibliography
ebrary, Inc. Computer Science: Reflections on the Field, Reflections from the Field. Washington, DC, National Academies Press, 2004 This book basically tackled the progress in information technology. In the paper, there is a need for it to be cited since the discussion is the fast pace development in this modern technology. The importance of the idea is to present that the reasoning of the writer in saying that there should be flexibility in the creation of curriculum concerning computer literacy. Knoblauch, C. H. “Literacy and the Politics of Education”. Composing Knowledge. Ed:Rolf Norgaard.
Boston, New York. Bedford/St. Martin, 2007. pp. (198-209). The underlying argument for the reason of the use of what Knoblauch said is to present the fact that literacy has its used in society. Since literacy is one of the objectives of Liberal Arts, it is important to cite his text to show what will be the function of being a literate in society. Hirsch, E. D. “Cultural Literacy”. Boston. Houghton Mifflin Company, 1987 The function of the information given by Hirsh in his book is to present the problem that is besetting the American population. There is a need for what the author said