Fellow toastmasters and welcomed guests, a few days ago, one of my friends posted an article on a social network asking the question “what is real education”? The question drew my interest and motivated me to do some research. My understanding from my research is that by “real education” the article was talking about “Liberal Education”.
What is Liberal Education? How can Liberal education benefit people?
Liberal Education is an approach to learning that empowers individuals and prepares them to deal with complexity, diversity, and change. It is more a way of studying than a specific course or field of study.
Here are three among many of benefits of liberal education.
Number one - Liberal education does not teach specific skills but can prepare us for ANY fields of specific skill, or profession.
The ex-president of Yale University Richard Levin pointed out that liberal education differs fundamentally from professional education or vocational training. It is not intended to develop specific skills and its teachings are more general.
Liberal education serves as a foundation to most professional studies and helps to develop many of the skills and abilities that are needed in the contemporary workplace and also helps people to become independent, well-rounded and thoughtful individuals.
The second benefit I would like to talk about is that Liberal education does not change our living environments, but it can change the way we think.
Mr. Levin has also said that the essence of liberal education is to develop the freedom to think critically and independently, to cultivate one’s mind to its full potential…
Liberal education enables us to think differently. The perfect example to this point would be from the famous writer David Foster Wallace’s commencement speech at Kenyon College. In his speech, Wallace first told a short story.
There are these two young fish swimming along, and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, “Morning, boys, how's the water?” And the two young ?sh swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, “What the hell is water?”
What is water? The fishes know how to swim, but they don’t know what water is, they don’t know what environment and surroundings they are in. How much similarity is there between this situation compared with the human society we are in today? – we often slip into our mind and are unaware what realities are. As Wallace also said, the immediate point of the fish story is that the most obvious, ubiquitous, important realities are often the ones that are the hardest to see and talk about.
He pointed out – although it is socially repulsive, basic self-centeredness is our default-setting, hard-wired into our heads. Because other people's thoughts and feelings have to be communicated to you somehow, but your own are so immediate, urgent, and real. However, we do have option of getting free of our natural, hard-wired default-setting by educating ourselves and changing the way how we think.
He gave an example of one’s average day, you get up in the morning, go to your challenging work for 9 or 10 hours, at the end of day, you are tired and stressed out, yet you still need to do grocery shopping. You have to wander all over the huge, over lit store's crowded aisles to ?nd the stu? you want, go through the long check-out line, and then you have to drive all the way home through slow, heavy, SUV-intensive rush-hour tra?c.
In this case, if we don’t make a conscious decision about how to think, we are going to be angry and miserable every time, because our natural default-setting is the certainty that situations like this are really all about me, about MY hungriness and MY fatigue and MY desire to just get home, and it's going to seem, for all the world, like everybody else is just in my way.
Thinking this way is our natural default-setting. It's the automatic, unconscious way that we experience the boring, frustrating, crowded parts of adult life when we are operating on the automatic, unconscious belief that I am the absolute center of the world.
The thing is - there are di?erent ways to think about these kinds of situations. Maybe the SUV that just cut me o? is being driven by a father whose little child is hurt or sick in the seat next to him, and he's trying to rush to the hospital, and he's in a way bigger, more legitimate hurry than I am — it is actually I who am in his way. Or maybe everyone else in the supermarket's checkout line is just as bored and frustrated as I am, and that some of these people probably have much harder, more tedious or painful lives than I do.
Learning how to think or think differently and how to see thing whole is a big part of liberal education.
It helps us to be more conscious and aware enough to choose what we pay attention to, to choose how we construct meaning from experience and to be more compassionate.
The third benefit is - By making conscious decisions about how to think, people can achieve happiness
As just mentioned, liberal education change people how to think and helps people to be more conscious and compassionate.
Compassion motivates people to go out of their way to help physical, or emotional hurts or pains of another. A lot of people found that helping others is the number one thing that makes them happy.
“Happiness can be learned” said by the famous Harvard lecturer Tal Ben-Shahar who taught Positive Psychology and the Science of Happiness. He has also focused on the importance of learning to paying attention to reality, relationships, showing appreciations that contribute greatly to positive emotions and one’s happiness. These types of learning, as part of liberal education eventually help to lead to a happier life.
And who here does not want to lead a happier life?? Is it any wonder why my friend’s article caught my attention? It is the connection between liberal education and happiness! Sometimes they may not have direct connection, we just need to change the way how we think! Let’s take our life long liberal education!
liberal education 提供了why. 而具体的职业教育是what and how.
没有这个why, 人在碰到坎的时候就过不去。 有了这个why, 才能迈过去
GO PLACIDLY amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Liberal Education 是大学本科教育的一部分，我的理解这是比较务实的部分，培养个人在工作，生活和行使公民权和义务的能力，就像中文说的授人以渔而不是授人以鱼。放狗搜了下:
Liberal education is an approach to undergraduate education that promotes integration of learning across the curriculum and cocurriculum, and between academic and experiential learning, in order to develop specific learning outcomes that are essential for work, citizenship, and life.
比如说，大学里典型的liberal arts专业有：history, social science, philosophy 等等。
对应的是vocational 的专业：nursing, accounting, engineering 等等。