Think outside your major

by Editorial Board / Beacon Staff • October 17, 2013

At Issue: Emerson lacks appreciation for liberal arts

Our Take: College should emphasize value of liberal arts

At the core of a true liberal arts education is the guarantee that students will be exposed to a variety of subjects within the humanities. As a self-proclaimed liberal arts school, Emerson fails to emphasize the importance of a well-rounded education. 

Last semester, Emerson took the beginning steps to strengthening its liberal arts program. By beginning discussions on incorporating the various general education courses into corresponding, related schools of the college, a restructuring was brainstormed that would strengthen how the college incorporates its liberal arts curriculum.

Emerson specializes in very specific, niche-driven majors. Areas of study like “Writing for Film & Television” and “Communication Disorders” aren’t offered at very many other colleges, a level of specialization that is both a selling point and a hindrance. This phenomena certainly leads to a very Emerson-specific version of tunnel vision: As students so passionate about majors oftentimes declared before we’ve stepped foot on campus, a true liberal arts curriculum is often overlooked. The balance of liberal arts-dictated general education classes promote a more versatile Emerson student, an artist as ready to engage with the world and proficient in the tools to do so.

Students shouldn’t see general education requirements on their transcripts simply as boxes that to be checked off. These courses form the foundation of your learning, not just at Emerson, but for the rest of your life. As Claudia Casteñada, a senior scholar-in-residence, put it when speaking to a Beacon reporter, “Those kinds of critical understandings are critical to living, not just working.” A balanced pedagogical diet will sharpen your thinking no matter what subjects appear in conversation, the newspaper, or cable shouting matches. A well-rounded student is better equipped to parse through nonsense and groupthink. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that a healthy grounding in science, history, and political science will prepare you for trivia night and Jeopardy-watching.  

Majoring in film isn’t for a future of making movies about the process of making movies; majoring in journalism doesn’t mean you’ll be reporting on reporting. Liberal arts account for the bulk content of which many majors rely on in practice. Just as a journalism major would find learning a foreign language to be a useful tool in the field, there is a substantial amount of practical use from liberal arts courses. “Gen ed” classes are not only relevant to various majors, but provide skills pertinent to offered majors. A philosophy class might seem like a boring way to spend a Tuesday morning, but the method of critically analyzing arguments is a capability useful to any student beyond the classroom. Liberal arts can cater to majors such as writing classes are important for journalism students, but also provide a platform for students to explore interests unrelated to their major.