Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Liberal Arts Degree and Education Abroad

         When I was a senior in high school, it was challenging for me to choose what colleges or universities to apply to.  Only three made the cut: Allegheny College, The College of William and Mary, and Miami of Ohio University.  I knew that I wanted a small school because I did not like the idea of being merely “a number”.  I visited Allegheny the summer before my junior year of high school and nearly every month following my visit, I received a personal letter from Bob Baldwin.  These cards could not have made me feel any more special.  I ultimately chose Allegheny because of how personal it is and I really felt like the college wanted me.  One thing I did not really take into consideration when choosing Allegheny was the fact that it is a Liberal Arts college.  I can recognize that Allegheny is a very good college, but it was not until after the small workshop with Dr. Harward this semester that I truly began to process the value of the liberal arts degree I will graduate with. 
            Allegheny is a unique college in that it requires its students to major and minor in two distinct disciplines.  I view this to be one of its greatest qualities, especially since the curriculum is much less rigid in this respect.  This allows and encourages students to explore their wide scope of varying interests with no penalties.  For me, this meant that I could major in psychology, minor in voice, and even take some courses in the natural sciences, such as neuroscience and biology.  Because of this more versatile education, students will be able to work in a multitude of different settings, making them more adaptable and therefore more appealing to employers. 
            Looking towards to the future, Dr. Harward helped me to see that Liberal Arts colleges not only produce excellent students, but also very well-rounded, productive members of society.  A lot is expected of students who attend Liberal Arts colleges.  Memorizing material will simply not cut it.  Liberal Arts students must truly understand the material and be able to critically think about what they learn.  Building upon critical thinking, students are capable of synthesizing a lot of information and can therefore make connections between a large number of differing subjects.  To me, this creates many more creative, freer thinkers, which is what our society needs.  One of the most special things people possess is their imagination.  As Albert Einstein once said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.  Knowledge is limited; imagination encircles the world.”  Knowledge is important, but without imagination, society will never move forward.  I find that Liberal Arts colleges help students embrace their imagination so that they may think outside of the box and advance our society.
Allegheny personally places a huge emphasis on effective communication within the classroom.  In high school, I was very quiet and hardly ever voiced my opinion.  At Allegheny, that is not acceptable if one wishes to do well in his/her classes.  Because I must contribute and participate in my classes, I have grown to be much more confident and well spoken.  Perhaps the greatest thing I have taken from my time at Allegheny so far is that what I learn within the classroom extends beyond to the real world as well.  With this, I can be successful in my career, yet I will be able contribute to society as well.  I find it very important to educate people about the values of a Liberal Arts degree because I personally did not know them, and I believe that what is truly special about these values is their applicability outside of the academic setting.
Perhaps I am biased because I want to teach in the future, but I have found this year’s theme to particularly interesting and thought provoking.  It has challenged me to consider all types of education and helped me to recognize that there is not just one sole type of education that is best.  The best education differs among each and every student.  The United States has made too many assumptions when it comes to education--particularly that college is for everyone and that is the way in which elementary, middle, and high school teachers should prepare their students.  But in actuality, college is not for everyone and that it is not a bad thing by any means.  I recently decided that after I obtain my MAT in teaching, I wish to teach internationally.  I have been doing a lot of research of different school systems in different countries.  One of the most interesting systems I have found is that of Germany.  Germany focuses more attention on the individual and what sort of education would suit them best: one that is geared towards university degree, one that is geared towards a vocational degree, and one that concludes after ninth grade.  I find this to be more beneficial because it recognizes that university is not for everyone and also acknowledges that some people will be more successful in a trade-sort job.  Next semester I am studying abroad in Australia and I am very excited to learn about their education system from a more hands-on perspective.  I will be sure to comment on either the blog or the Facebook page about the Australian school system.  I think it would be interesting and worthwhile next semester to discuss education systems (of all types) abroad so that people are aware of the differences and similarities other countries share with the United States on an educational level.  Perhaps by doing so, we can find new ways to transform education.

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