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There are myriads of learners admitted in various institutions of higher learning who still find liberal education to be quite vague or ambiguous in many respects. Needless to say, there is urgent need for academic advisors to offer the much needed career guidance to students in order to assist them to understand the implications of general liberal education as incorporated in the curricula.
Hence, practical applications and conceptual knowledge on the relative benefits of the general liberal education seems to be lacking (Hancock, 1999). The two aforementioned factors are indeed instrumental in helping students to appreciate and comprehend liberal education as a whole package.
This essay offers a holistic argumentative paper on why the general liberation education should be embraced and adopted. In particular, the paper begins by defining the meaning of the general liberal education and outlining some of its aims and objectives. The rest of the paper argues on why liberal education can be used as a formidable means of delivering education and why students should be persuaded by academic advisors on the significance of this type of education.
Definition and criteria for a curriculum
The content and sets of various courses offered in either lower or higher learning institutions are known as curricula. Hence, a syllabus is used to offer courses that have been designed in several sets. In addition, a given course prescription is used to deliver the content of a curriculum in order to obtain desired standards or grades. Therefore, one of the most important criteria of a curriculum is that it must have well set aims and objectives. Other important criteria for a curriculum include:
- Functionality-it must be easy to understand and articulate its content.
- Crucial- a good curriculum must also be independent and offer a critical point through which decisions can be made.
A general liberal education should be included in the curriculum so that facilitation of content delivery can be effective. A curriculum also guides teachers on the scope of teaching required which should also be in line with the set objectives.
Although there are several concepts that have been used to define liberal education, the intrinsic meaning still remains the same (Breneman, 1994). For instance, it is pertinent to note that vocational education and liberal education are vividly different from each other in spite of the close concepts that have been used to distinguish them. In any case, both of these two broad fields in education have been historically perceived to be separate and unique entities that prepare students towards various career paths.
Students who attend vocational education are actually prepared to work in specific fields as employees of organizations. In other words, they are trained in order to fit certain work requirements in the job market. In addition, the process of preparing students in vocational education is usually carried out in haste and within a limited period of time so that the set objectives can be met within the fixed timelines. As a result, the training curricula are usually defined in a very narrow perspective.
Moreover, the stipulated programs do not last for a significant period of time since they are designed to be short in nature. On the other hand, there are no disciplinary or occupational limitations on the general liberal education that are usually schemed to last for about four years or so in higher learning institutions such as territory colleges as well as private and public chartered universities (Hancock,1999).
It is also necessary to differentiate the liberal arts colleges and liberal majors when deliberating on the benefits and advantages of liberal education. In the past, science, history, philosophy, Greek and Latin were some of the major components of the liberal arts majors.
However, physical sciences, social sciences, humanities and arts are currently the major compliments of liberal arts. Nonetheless, the aforementioned disciplines are just a small portion of liberal education in addition to the fact that learners from all majors can benefit from the content offered in liberal education (Breneman, 1994).
Aims and objectives of the general liberal education
It is perhaps prudent to explore the major aims and objectives of the general liberal education before embarking on why it should be embraced at all costs. To begin with, both the upcoming and historical definition of liberal education should be well understood by academic advisors before guiding students on its potential benefits.
For a long time now, the general liberal education has focused towards attaining four key goals namely enhancing and teaching skills on how to communicate, developing critical thinking skills and competencies, creating an enabling environment through which cross disciplinary issues can be well understood and articulated as well as creating a platform where students can be prepared to be mature, responsible and dependable citizens.
Powerful communication skills is considered in liberal education as an integral component that defines every student that has graduated from a higher institution of learning bearing in mind that communication completes every flow of information needed in society. In addition, critical thinking has been taken as an invaluable tool that exposes the logical fallacies among other people.
It also aids in sifting through the arguments posed by others and finally coming up with logical conclusions void of biased or subjective notions. As a result, liberal education is a vantage position to prepare students to fit in most fields of study because it offers a wider scope and duration of learning than vocational education.
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On the same breath, a student who has successfully graduated from a liberal education environment is believed to be fully liberated from the local or national bondages of citizenship. In other terms, a global citizenship status is attained fully after going through liberal education because it enhances insightful critical thinking and communication skills (Humphreys & Davenport, 2005).
Although the above goals seem to be quite ambitious, top academic advisors have already noted with satisfaction that they can indeed be achieved. Better still, learning institutions have been encouraged to cultivate these goals within students and also enable them to articulate each one of them on their own without being coerced to do so (IDare, 2001).
Benefits and utilities of the general liberal education
An individual who has undergone liberal education is believed to possess the best traits.
It is possible to come up with a couple of traits that are respectable. Some of the qualities that are imparted among individuals who attend liberal education include the ability to be a cosmopolitan, wisdom, adaptability, being well rounded, analytical, rational, charismatic and persuasive.
Academic advisors can use the aforementioned list to guide students on how they can work towards improving their personal traits. Such a platform can be created in a vocational training program that is meant to last just for a couple of weeks or a few months.
Although the above guidance approach may appear idealistic or rudimentary, it is necessary to carry out self-examination using the Socrates’s sales pitch. Socrate held a different view on how education could be marketed.
The Athenian leaders were really agitated with his approach since they considered it to be quite revolutionary. The educational philosophy that was founded by Soctrates has withstood the test of time and has been used to revolutionize the standards of education across the world. Hence, it is possible for academic advisors to use the same philosophy that was laid down by Socrates to advice students (IDare, 2001).
It is accurate to argue that most of the developed countries such as Canada and the United States have attained universal education status for their citizens. The liberal education has enabled these countries to offer multi-disciplinary courses to all students in disregard of their religion, ethnicity, sex, race or social class.
It is worth to mention that universal education cannot be attained when vocational training is adopted as the key mode of delivering knowledge and skills. It is believed that vocational training might create loopholes in discriminating other students (Humphreys & Davenport, 2005).
Although there are several requirements that are attached towards the acquisition of liberal education such as varied experiences that are challenging and engaging with different types of people, it indeed plays the role of limiting the effects of social constructs among people.
If social constructs are not eliminated in the due course of learning, students might find it extremely cumbersome to expand their future professional horizon. In other terms, liberal education tends to increase the available opportunities that learners can secure in life (Baker, 2009).
The liberation argument also asserts that awareness among students can be increased especially in terms of their consciousness towards individuals who have been oppressed in society.
The marketability of students after graduating from various learning institutions is of great importance in any system of education. Preparing students for a real working environment requires adequate time and monetary resources. The latter may not be guaranteed in vocational training.
As a matter of fact, close reflection of liberal education should be encouraged (IDare, 2001).
Past records have demonstrated that marketable skills and competences can be built using liberal education. As already mentioned in the above discussion, liberal education has the ability to enhance effective communication and critical thinking skills needed in a real working environment.
In addition, liberal education offers a wide perspective through which learners can simulate and take control of the world around them. Most importantly, it is vital to elucidate that skills acquired in a liberal education program are adequate and quite responsive in terms of the needs of the job market.
Specialization is yet another merit of a liberal education system. It is definite tghat the long duration course programs often lead into specialization in specific areas of studies. For example, some students end up specializing in engineering, medicine, aviation or even History.
Due to such learning arrangements, their marketability skills are improved since they give more focus on specific areas of study that eventually make them not just graduates but refined professionals in their own areas of specialties.
Liberal education is also known to cultivate the ability of students to reflect and devise the best strategies to use when facing various challenges (Baker, 2009).
For instance, the society today is full of situations and queries that are complex and new such as greater predictability and uncertainty, increasing global competition as well as technology. These issues among others call for an individual to develop abilities, skills and techniques both from learning and experience. The process of learning from experience requires deep reflection. The latter can be done individually or in groups, formal with a structure and routine or informal with an unstructured process.
It is important to note that it occurs on a continuum of time which is the present, the past and the future (IDare, 2001). For instance, nursing students in a certain urgent situation will use the recent past experience to develop new ideas or principles which they will use to better their practice in the future as well as to develop their learning. Liberal education enhances critical thinking through reflection which later improves personal organization and management (Breneman,1994).
The most important components of professional development in liberal education practice lie in the practice of reflection and mentorship. This becomes an important tool that students use to develop their skills in personal management and organization practice from the level of novice to a point where they finally become expert practitioners.
The process through which individuals acquire attitudes, skills and knowledge is referred to as learning. In order for an individual to become more effective in organizing or managing both his life and duties, learning for authentic management development is necessary. In addition, learning to organize and manage is successfully attained through experience that is usually cultivated in a liberal education system.
There is need therefore for an individual to engage the use of reflection based on past experiences. Reflection, rising from the early works of Socrates, is a process whereby after an experience, an individual steps back, takes time to careful review it to derive a meaning. Through this, an individual intending to manage and organize seeks to find the answer to the questions such as what?
So what? Now what? , from the actual experience, what was learned from the experience and the application of knowledge leaned in the future respectively. When an individual gets the ability to draw inferences from the meaning of the experience, the learning will be complete and so will be the process of reflection (Baker, 2009).
Reflection skills, like many other activities involving the practice of management, can be learned in a liberal education system unlike in vocational training. This does not mean that it replaces other mentoring activities, degrees and certificate programs dealing with organization and management development.
Rather, it adjuncts management development initiatives with other programs of organizational management. In this sense, it is clear that learning and developing through reflection is vital for professional employees as well as the senior managers of an organization. These qualities can be effectively cultivated during the long learning program in a liberalized system of education.
Problem solving and critical thinking
In health care, the practice of medical practitioners is guided and shaped by reason and insight. Different strategies are normally applied to counter the new and complex challenges that cause discomfort during work. Achievements in health practice as well as health improvements are results of an insightful and inquiring workforce. Some of the necessary changes an individual focused on creating a difference might bring may cause certain uneasiness among other practitioners (Breneman, 1994).
This poses a problem in bringing change in the medical practice via critical thinking and reflection. However, it is important to note that in critical thinking and problem solving, the main aim of reflective practice is deal with the confusion, untidiness and the normal way of carrying out procedures in the laboratories, ward or on patients in the practice environment (Baker, 2009).
To recap it all, it is imperative to reiterate that the success of higher education largely depends on the liberal education system. It has also been established that liberal education creates a common environment upon which students, staff, faculty members as well as college administrators can share a common platform of knowledge. However, the role of academic advisors can be underestimated especially in terms of offering the much needed academic guidance to students whom they work with closely on a regular basis.
In any case, academic advisors should act as mentors to students who need to be informed of the significance of liberal education. Some of the key areas where liberal education has boosted the understanding and professional well being of students include the daily experiences of students at the college or university, peer encounters and pressures, community engagement, career preparation, campus participation as well as the academic course work development and general studies.
Hence, it is definite that liberal education offers a more holistic approach towards education than vocational training because when all the aforementioned factors are combined, students graduate with more tangible knowledge and skills needed in the actual field of employment. Finally, the arguments in support of liberal education as discussed in this essay are not exhaustive.
There are other subsidiary benefits that are associated with liberal education that cannot be discussed in a short essay like this one. Nonetheless, the negative aspects of this type of education should not be used as benchmarks in offering negative and less constructive criticisms against liberal education system. In any case, the long term benefits of liberal education are more significant than the perceived limitations.
Baker, D. P. (2009). The educational transformation of work: Towards a new synthesis. Journal of Education and Work, 22 (3), 163–191.
Breneman, D. W. (1994). Liberal arts colleges: Thriving, surviving, or endangered? Washington, DC: Brookings Institution.
Dare, D. E. (2001). Learner-centered instructional practices supporting the new vocationalism. New Directions for Community Colleges, 115, 81–91.
Hancock, R. (1999). Tocqueville on liberal education and American democracy. In R. Hancock (Ed.), America, the West, and liberal education (pp. 27–34). Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.
Humphreys, D., & Davenport, A. (2005). What really matters in college: How students view and value liberal education. Liberal Education 91(3), 36–43.