The Goals of a Liberal Education

In his short article “Only Connect…” William Cronon evaluates the true meaning of the term “liberal education”. William Cronon wrote the article to respond to everyone who uses the term “liberal education” because he feels that the term has lost its meaning. Cronon argues that many colleges and universities use the term “liberal education” but when you look at how they define it their definitions are vague and confusing. Cronon points out that they, the colleges and universities, say that a “liberal education” is defined by curriculum requirements but “forget that their purpose is to nurture human freedom and growth”.

Cronon’s main argument in his article “Only Connect…” is that a “liberal education” should be defined not by the curriculum, but by the qualities that liberally educated students should embody. To argue this point, Cronon begins by talking about the flaws with the historical definition of “liberal education” and compares that to how many modern schools define a “liberal education”. Cronon then moves on to discuss the traits that he thinks a “liberal education” should teach. Cronon recommends ten traits that he believes all liberally educated students should embody, he elaborates on each trait, and describes what that would mean for a student in the modern world.

I found the article “Only Connect…” very persuasive. I think that Cronon made some very important and compelling points that made me think about my own education and whether or not I have learned some of the important skills that he mentioned.  While I did find the article convincing I was left wondering how his suggestions could possibly be implemented. The traits he described were vague and they were all subjective. While this was intentional, I was left wondering how a school could set those as standards if they are so subjective and impossible to measure. I also feel that many schools today use their current standards, however confusing they may be, to produce thoughtful students who embody the traits described by Cronon. The success of many schools today tells me that while Cronon’s definition of a “liberal education” is interesting, it is not the only one that can effectively produce students who embody the important traits he described. To make a clear distinction between Cronon’s points and my own, I used first person statements and separated my beliefs from his by evaluating his work in a separate paragraph.

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