“The objective of education is to prepare the young to educate themselves throughout their lives.”

– – – Robert Maynard Hutchins

In my opinion, Hutchins, as regular readers of this Blog will recall, is the greatest American educator of the twentieth century. For much of his exceptional career, he served as President of The University of Chicago (1929-1945 and Chancellor, 1945-1951) and is often remembered for his championing of “The Great Books.”

Today, St. John’s College of Annapolis is most often associated with a continuing commitment to many of Hutchins’ ideas.

So, it became doubly interesting for me to see a piece in “The Washington Post” this past weekend entitled, “At St. John’s, a Defender of Liberal Arts.”

The column, by Daniel de Vise, featured Christopher Nelson, President of St. John’s College for the past twenty years:

“In an era when many recession-scarred parents have come to view college as a path to a higher income bracket, Nelson dares to define it as the route to a life well-lived.

‘As important as the world of work is to us, we don’t live in order to get a job,’ he told an audience in San Francisco this year. ‘But we work in order to make it possible for us to live a good life.’”

Wikipedia defines “Liberal Arts” as “a curriculum that imparts general knowledge and develops the student’s rational thought and intellectual capabilities, unlike the professional, vocational, and technical curricula emphasizing specialization. The contemporary liberal arts comprise studying literature, languages, philosophy, history, mathematics and science.”

It is from such a liberal arts education that tomorrow’s leaders evolve.

In order to think fully through the many issues that confront our planet, one must be able to reason with a degree of sophistication. And the lateral thought process – not the linear one – will provide the truest answers.

Unfortunately, professional and vocational education focuses too heavily on only the skills side of the equation.

Rather, it is the liberal arts student who confronts varying ideas and nuances, so necessary to future leadership and societal advancement.

Unfortunately for many today,

“the specialization of American education has robbed students of the ability to communicate with other students outside of their field. . . . a student of biology cannot converse meaningfully with a student of mathematics because they share no common educational experience.”

– – – Robert Maynard Hutchins

Next week (May 23-25), I’ll be in Orlando at the ASTD International Expo (Booth 611). Please stop by if you’re attending the Conference.

More on Tuesday – – – – –

— Bill Walton, Founder, ITC Learning