What is a liberal arts education? In answering this question, liberal arts colleges almost always talk about the traditional benefits first: a broad-based education that provides students with a grounding in the arts, humanities, physical and life sciences, and social sciences—regardless of major—that hones important skills needed for success. But when we do this, we leave out a major component of liberal arts learning—and that is a problem.
If you have ever gone on a particularly challenging mountain hike, there are a number of truths you have come to expect. You need to put in the time to prepare: planning the trek, getting your gear together, deciding which trail to follow and being mentally and physically prepared.
The most difficult part is often mental preparation. It’s one thing to read that a trail requires eight hours of rigorous hiking to reach the summit, but it’s quite another to do it. Then there are those things that are beyond your control—obstacles, changing weather, bad jerky. How you react has great bearing on your journey.
I recently found myself having a Howard Beale moment. “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!”
Beale, the TV news anchor in the film Network, is feeling dismay about the state of television news and makes his declaration during a broadcast. Since the February announcement that Sweet Briar College would close—citing, among other things, the “declining number of students choosing to attend small, rural, private liberal arts colleges”—Wilson College seems to have become inextricably linked with the story because Wilson’s planned closure in 1979 was reversed in court, preserving the institution.