Critical Thinking and the Liberal Arts

Pre Reading: Based on the title of this article, I think this text is going to be about the importance of the liberal arts in an educational setting. The liberal arts often get a bad rap amongst scholars, especially those who tend towards STEM fields. This article could highlight how STEM and the liberal arts can go hand in hand. I think the liberal arts refer to things such as music, philosophy, english, art, dance, etc.

What are the Liberal Arts: In summary, the liberal arts are a group of fields that encompass knowledge as a whole. Many misinterpret the term “liberal arts”, simply writing it off as artistic fields like drawing, painting, dancing, etc. Instead, the liberal arts may be defined as a field of studies that encompass logic, philosophy, artistic expression, writing, and critical thinking. Early on, the liberal arts even encompassed arithmetic and geometry.

Why do we need the Liberal Arts: The liberal arts have a greater function than simply providing us with a more advanced skillset for future careers. Instead of thinking about the liberal arts in this way, we should instead focus on the bigger picture. That is, we should consider what it means to be a part of a successful civilization with rules and culture. Specifically for western societies, the liberal arts help us become more productive and well rounded citizens. Studying the liberal arts can help many with civil duties such as voting, jury duty, economic responsibilities, etc. The liberal arts also provide us with a catalyst for cultural impact.

What is Critical Thinking: Critical thinking is a complex skillset that cannot simply be defined by a few key terms. Critical thinking is the concepts of individuality, free will, understanding, skepticism, objectivity, and accuracy all wrapped up in one box. Critical thinking is the key to a successful society, and it’s something rarely taught in STEM classes. Rather than simply memorizing formulas, methods, and laws, critical thinking revolves around analysis, creativity, and the application of knowledge.

The Importance of Critical Inquiry: Critical inquiry is important for self explanatory reasons. As a society, critical inquiry is the key to understanding life itself. As the article says, “we need skilled thinkers, problem solvers, team workers, and communicators,” (Scheuer 6). Critical inquiry is the step taken in between orthodox education and developing the aforementioned skills. These things transcend the ability to simply perform well at your job.

Connection to Core Handbook: I noticed in the core handbook that the curriculum requires students to take at least one liberal arts course throughout the 4 years (as well as some other exploration and humanities courses). This obviously connects well to this article for a multitude of reasons. It’s nice knowing that UNE respects the liberal arts and their ability to develop these critical skills. The core handbook also states that the core curriculum aims to prepare students for the world in cultural/societal ways. The liberal arts certainly play a role in this.

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