Must blog … water … water … liberal arts?

OK. I had heard this in undergraduate school (Stockton College, NJ) from a friend. He said one of my favorite teachers said each student ideally should have the “black bag” experience. What is this black bag experience? Well, it’s meant for a young college student to figuratively (not literally) enclose oneself apart from pretty much every sensory experience they have had, think of the world as totally new and completely mysterious, and to get curious and poke around in that black bag until one might be “beginning to see the light” (with thanks to Lou Reed).

So what relevance has the liberal arts experience in today’s education?

I experienced some intimidation when I was editor-in-chief of my college newspaper because I enjoyed covering faculty-administration disputes. I developed my own bent and I suppose I sided more with the faculty than with the administration. In my opinion, the faculty had better ideas for the college (for instance, my college might be ranked number one by US News insofar as public liberal arts colleges are concerned instead of number five, if the faculty had had their way). To say the least, the “man” of the college let me know that my views were not well-received by the administration. (They still gave me a B.A. I earned it.)

I’ll go back to the days preceding the current Iraq War: Was there a single war leader in the group of you-know-who (OK, I’ll say it — The Neo-Cons) that had any apparent sense of history, of wise war conduct, of the socio-economic-politico-cultural imperatives of the world, not to mention our own country? To me, it was haste, haste, haste. At the very least I wish our leaders would have waited another year before taking action in Iraq. We needed more intelligence. I said it then and I’m saying it now. You never know, we may have found reasons or a way to avoid the war.

How can I say this? I am a student of the liberal arts. General knowledge, History, Literature, world Philosophies, Theology, current news, even some math and Physics. I entered college as a patriotic American and I left as one. I maintain that I have a right to verbally dissent against that which I believe to be corrupt and wrong, even in this land and even with regard to this government of ours.

So what I am saying here is not necessarily to follow in my footsteps or go the way some “radicals” did (for example, the Drug War was my central issue for too long). I am suggesting the all-importance of a sound, well-rounded liberal arts education for every one both liberal and conservative and in-between. I’m not so perfectly enlightened, to say the least, but we as a citizenry must be learned enough to ask the important questions and demand honest answers. We must awake our leaders and inform them that it is “We the People” they are suppose to serve and not themselves solely. And we must make it so, not hysterically, but forthrightly and with clear, cool heads.

All these “specialists” we have in this land and who among them is offering any real help besides fixing a few machines? (OK, I value some of the machines and I’m grateful!)

But it’s disconnect, disconnect, disconnect…. We need strong general-knowledge thinkers to bring it together, and that comes with a wide spectrum of good liberal arts training. We need real diplomats to help our country’s problems: Ethical thinkers with imagination can only help matters.

I hope for it.

Further reading for today:

“Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence (I conjure you to believe me, fellow-citizens) the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake; since history and experience prove, that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of Republican Government. But that jealousy, to be useful, must be impartial; else it becomes the instrument of the very influence to be avoided, instead of a defence against it. Excessive partiality for one foreign nation, and excessive dislike of another, cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other. Real patriots, who may resist the intrigues of the favorite, are liable to become suspected and odious; while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people, to surrender their interests.” — George Washington, from his Presidential Farewell Address (published in Philadelphia’s “American Daily Advertiser,” September 19, 1796; it was never given orally)

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