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A Liberal Education Demands Effort to Learn Outside of the Classroom


Omair Ali

Perspectives Editor

The definition of a liberal education, which has no relevance to liberalism in politics, has been a widely debated issue. Some have offered their views of the liberal education, but there is no consensus. For instance, the Association of American Colleges & Universities (AACU) states that a liberal education “is an approach to learning that empowers individuals and prepares them to deal with complexity, diversity, and change.” This definition is consistent with Benedictine University’s approach to learning, where each academic program has modes of inquiry and degree requirements tied to different learning outcomes.

Not everyone agrees with this definition of liberal education, but the AACU suggests that liberal education is an approach to learning, and that this learning is not restricted to the classroom. Instead, a liberal education demands exploration beyond the classroom.

Some may argue in favor of a professional education, which emphasizes a curriculum that specializes a student in discipline-focused coursework. But this coursework restricts the student to a limited range of topics. Coursework in even the most liberal education curricula can also be limited when compared to the entirety of knowledge available outside the classroom. Thus, a student must realize that a degree and its corresponding curriculum is not enough to fulfill the learning approach found in a liberal education.

The liberal education helps students explore connections between disciplines, which guides students to do the same outside the classroom. Supplementing classroom learning provides the proper stimulus to improve one’s thinking capacities as they approach problems in the future. This is how entrepreneurs, leaders, and intellectual thinkers can emerge.

A liberal education can also be tailored to a student’s specific learning interests outside the classroom through activities provided by student organizations, internships, volunteering organizations, and more. But students are required to put forth effort to learn outside the classroom, which is difficult to sustain as learning outside the classroom often has no immediate incentive.

To have a complete liberal education experience Benedictine University, students must seek opportunities outside the classroom that will build their intellectual framework.