Jeremy Whitty is an Associate Professor in Operations and Quality at IE and also the Course Director for the MSc. in Pharmaceutical Medicine at Hibernia College.
The disciplined mind of a liberal arts education gives the student the ability to analyse and understand most of the problems she’ll encounter in life. Universal liberal arts may not stop genocides or famine but they are the most effective antidote against the giant pottage of propaganda and distorted information that constantly bombards us, reducing our ability to make informed opinions on any matter to that of a child, retarding our intelligence and by affecting our ability to effectively take part in the democratic process, directly threaten our very freedom.
Some may argue that the liberal arts do not teach us to write in XML or construct a database, programme robots or analyse financial data. True, but they do give us the ability to recognise what information we need before we can explore the worlds more technical issues.
Others will argue that the findings of Aristotle, Euclid, Descartes, Newton and Pascal are invalidated because modern instruments give contemporary scientist more accurate results. This is hubris. How can we blindly accept the ‘findings’ of modern science without understanding how it arrived at these conclusions? Are they based on a sound foundation or just sand? One may ask why I include Science within the Liberal Arts. I am merely correcting one of the symptoms to grow from our neglect of the Arts. Heretofore they were one and the same. Unfortunately now there are those who can construct a discourse analysis on the semiotics of Barthes but have no idea where the electricity that powers their computer comes from whilst others can calculate the electrical resistance in a Wheatstone bridge but cannot tell the difference between Shakespeare and Beverly Hills 90210.
In a technological society we should all understand the basics of our technology and in a world of increasingly complex problems it behoves everyone to know a little history and a little political philosophy to appreciate the myriad competing arguments we constantly face. Only a liberal arts education can equip us for this, for, as our social and political lives are inundated with spin and lies and massaged statistics, the scientific and technological fabric we have clothed ourselves in is quickly becoming our new superstition.
What is so wonderful about the Liberal Arts? What power do they possess that the educators of the last hundred years seem to have missed? The Liberal Arts are a boxing ring for the brain. Everything can be discussed. Each of us is free to voice our opinion, yet no proposition goes unquestioned. Exchanging ideas are seen as a healthy spar between friends and sometimes adversaries, yet all work towards realising our potential as a species. So much technology and commerce work towards realising our potential as workers or customers.