The New American College: A Case for the Liberal Arts
By Dr. Jim Belcher
President, Providence Christian College
Education in America has a rich history dating back to the 1600s – but colleges and universities no longer see their priorities as helping students find the meaning of life, building a life of strong character, learning to serve others or preparing for civic responsibility.
Now higher education is about pre-professional vocational training and ethical and moral experimentation for the students and this shift away from the true foundational aim of education has been a disaster.
All too often this had led to our nation’s students being “academically adrift” – ill prepared for adulthood and productive, meaningful careers, and distracted or injured by dorm brothels, political correctness and a lack of religious freedom on campus.
At Providence, we are modeling the New American College – the study of liberal arts and sciences. Because of our commitment to general revelation, we believe we can study the finest books, art and culture and learn much about God’s world. We believe all truth is God’s truth.
We are committed to a broad liberal arts education where our students take at least half of their classes in core liberal arts like theology, history, literature, and philosophy.
But the liberal arts is not only about content, it is a way of learning. It is contrasted with specialized pre-professional learning and vocational training, which are now taught at the majority of institutions where they abandon the meaning of life questions.
A liberal arts education is designed to be broad and deep. Broad by encompassing a general core of courses and deep by studying a career concentration with rigor. Our learning is comprehensive, interdisciplinary and connected. We teach our students to ask the big questions, think profoundly and critically and communicate well.
Studying the liberal arts teaches:
- Learning is for its own sake and not just for a diploma – we are learning to slow down, think deeply, be curious, to realize that knowledge brings great joy, and that wonder and curiosity are more important than IQ, a point made by a recent study in the Harvard Business Review.
- Liberal Arts is about developing abilities – Study after study shows that employers complain about the kind of graduates colleges and universities are pumping out – graduates who can’t write well, think critically, problem solve or work well in diverse groups. This is exactly what the liberal arts does best. It is what Providence does best.
- Developing high moral character, habits of the heart and a strong sense of purpose and vocational call – Providence strives to cultivate students who work hard, enjoy life, and have a strong sense of purpose – a life of “faithful presence,” to use James Davidson Hunter’s fine term. We want our students to see these four years as a time to ask the big and hard questions about all aspects of life – to develop a meaningful philosophy of life. We desire for them a life of character, high moral integrity and a vision for their vocations.
In short, Providence as a New American College attempts to provide students with four years of transformative experiences that change them forever and set them on a trajectory of faithfulness to God, a rich and abundant life and a life that launches them into adulthood – one that contributes to our nation and world by productive work, building strong family and being a good neighbor.
Lofty goals? Yes. But Providence, as a liberal arts college, rooted in the Reformed tradition – the New American College at its finest – can meet these goals.
We hope you will consider joining us!