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Omaha, Nebraska, United States
I am more and more convinced that most congregations die from a staggering lack of imagination. Let's change that. Drop me a line on email or leave a comment if you have thoughts on God, Jesus, congregations, the church or whatever.... I look forward to our conversations.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Death of Liberal Arts and Life

Nancy Cook of Newsweek Magazine online did a nice article on the decline of liberal arts learning in the USA during this current recession. (See Jobbed: The Death of the Liberal Arts, April 5, 2010) So once again those seemingly "pie-in-the-sky" idealists are losing out to the hard core pragmatists who want to use higher education, not for education of the human life, but to get a job. As if that's what education is all about...going to work.

I've been reading about the death of humanites (in this case liberal arts) for over three decades. When I was in undergraduate school (majoring in English--a classic "liberal art"), I read a couple of dozen books on why I would never get a job in a world dominated by "supply-side" economics. I remember I told my advisor once, a great woman who specialized in 18th Century literature, that if I'd wanted a job, the last thing I would have done is go to college. College is all about avoiding work, not preparing for it.

The bigger issue for me is filtering "education" through ONLY an economic lens. Education is about sparking the human mind and soul to reaches and depths beond our imaginations. Browning's great line "to exceeds man's (sic) grasp, else what's a heaven for?" is the purpose and point of education for me. Or how about Jerome Lee's great line, "Do you ever think about the things you think about?" as a way to understand what education could be. To say that you have to learn to read or write or add in order to make money is to make a mockery of God's greatest creation: the human being. The human given a depth of passion, the human graced with a mind of nimbleness, the human bestowed with an honor and glory, "just a little lower than the angels" does not deseve to be a cog in a machine to grind us up for higher and higher percentages of productivity to the GNP.

So to all of you out there worried about jobs (and according to the article only 41% of people aged 18-29 have them, no doubt there's a lot of worry out there) remember this: to make things is not the same as having a job. To be creative is more important than to have toys that break...to love well is remembered long after the shine has faded from the coins and credit cards...

As it turns out, I bury a lot of people. And not a one of them was remembered because they made money (although they did, and some made quite a bit)...they were remembered because they were a friend, a dad, and even a colleague at work...but even--at work--they knew there was more to life than jobs...and that is why liberal arts is so important and will never go away...it is the way in which life is lived...even for those who have jobs.

3 comments:

Rachel the Great said...

:) I'm taking this to mean you think it's a good thing that I don't have a job yet. Also, I am a liberal arts major! Albeit, I have only run into two or three other liberal arts majors in the two months I've been at PLU. There's lots of nursing majors here. Which is ironic, since it's a "Lutheran" campus and we have to take religion and philosophy courses as a requirement.. Curious.
I liked the article. And yes, I read it. I keep up with my family.
Peace!
Rachel.

pastordavelivingwater said...

Hey Scott
Speaking of education and learning and stuff...been quite a journey but my formal education is about to restart if you are willing to aid me in making up for past sins - the things I have done and especially the things I've left undone. I've email you at your Luther account but just in case thought I'd drop you a line here. You can find me at the other Living Water, the one in Scottsdale. lwlcaz
Thanks and hope we get to chat soon. In the meanwhile, I'm enjoying your blog.

Scott Frederickson said...

Dave,
It is great to hear you are--almost literally--back from the dead. We will work it out...