Chesterton School of Liberal Arts wishes you and your loved ones a beautiful and joyful new year!
For the past twenty years or so, I’ve been trying to understand this concept of “Liberal Arts.” I don’t think I fully understand it yet. And I don’t think you do, either.
One would hope that any college-educated person steeped in liberal arts institutions would have a clear idea just what those things are. But we don’t.
For example, I went to a liberal arts university: Biola University. There, I majored in Humanities and studied the “Great Books” of western civilization at the Torrey Honors Institute.
My first teaching job was to equip young minds to join the Great Conversation by reading and discussing Great Books.
Since that time, I’ve been involved in multiple schools and nonprofits aimed at rebuilding Western Civilization through modern education – schools that cultivate the disinterested pursuit of knowledge for its own sake, restoring a love of transcendent goodness, truth, beauty, harmony, justice, and fidelity.
For the past seven years, I’ve been studying theology and philosophy at the graduate level – two subjects that are presumably liberal arts or closely related.
And yet despite this exposure and reflection on the topic of liberal arts, I’m still not certain that I (or anyone else) really knows what these things are.
Sure, people use the term. But do they have more than a vague idea of its reference?
When a college labels itself as a “Liberal Arts” institution (as opposed to a “research” institution), they might mean no more by that than that they value a smattering of different subjects.
Liberal arts often stands for “general” knowledge as opposed to specialized knowledge; or humanities as opposed to STEM; or abstract, genteel, white-collar subjects as opposed to concrete, blue-collar subjects.
But these vagueries are insufficient in the minds of an educator. One would expect clear answers to fundamental questions such as: how many liberal arts are there? What distinguishes them from other arts? Where did they begin and how did they evolve, if they evolved at all? Is mathematics a liberal art? How about physics? If “grammar” is a traditional liberal art, then why don’t liberal arts schools teach grammar?
My football coach used to say, It’s all about fundamentals.” Today, sport commentators in the National Football League say the same thing just about every week.
In education, it’s all about the fundamentals: What is education? What is its true nature and purpose? What methods or strategies are universal and what methods are particular to the group of students toward which they are aimed?
My goal in this first part of the series is to suggest that we don’t very well know the fundamentals.
In later parts, I want to offer a brief answer to the question of what liberal arts are and why they matter.
At the Chesterton School of Liberal Arts, we don’t just aim to provide a rigorous education; we aim to bring inspiring faculty into contact with young minds. We strive to restore education to its classical roots.
Did you go to a “liberal arts” school? Did they teach you what liberal arts are? Or did they just offer a smattering of knowledge from the humanities and sciences?
Keith Buhler (PhD, University of Kentucky) is Chief Academic Advisor for the Chesterton School of Liberal Arts. He also teaches philosophy at another Southern California classical school and has authored two books on philosophy and theology.
As both an educator and a parent, I’ve observed the accelerated changes schools have undergone to bolster efficiency. Education has largely unwittingly (or wittingly) not implemented any meaningful changes in making education more efficient.
I recall conducting a teacher observation several years ago. I was taken aback by how the classroom environment, with a few exceptions, had essentially remained stagnant. Very little had changed since I left high school about 20 years ago.
Technology has offered flexibility to for our modern workforce. According to a New York Times article, about 48% of the Americans workforce works remotely on a weekly basis. Using various platforms, employees and students are not as reliant on a traditional in-person experience.
The hybrid model of education was conceived about 15 years ago, colleges and universities started using online platforms, commonly referred to as an LMS (Learning Management System). A Learning Management System allows students and faculty to share meaningful academic interactions through an online platform. Moving forward, learning will be a hybrid between online and in-person learning.
As a graduate student, I had the advantage of accessing my syllabus, submitting assignments, interacting with fellow students, engaging threaded discussions and seeking teacher feedback through the LMS application. Essentially, learning was streamlined through the hybrid process.
During college, I was required to attend class once a week, yet I remained fully engaged with my professors through the LMS application. The professor was able to connect with us through the LMS platform, which made communication more efficient.
Here at the Chesterton School of Liberal Arts, we strive to provide students and parents with the unique opportunity to experience efficiency, transparency and flexibility through the hybrid model. Parents have access to real-time information on their student’s grades, assignments, teacher feedback, attendance log and other features. Parents have their own separate login information to ensure their child is on track.
Our hybrid model is simple: students attend class twice a week in the form of an in person sessions from 9AM to 2PM and meet for an online session once a week. The rest of the week, students complete assignments at their own pace, providing students and parents much-needed flexibility.
The model we are employing is a 40/60 approach. Forty percent of the week, students are in class at a brick-and-mortar environment (classroom), while the other 60% of the time they are working at their own pace from the comfort of their home in a flexible environment.
Our in-person sessions take place in non-traditional academic environments. We replace the factory-style classroom model with something that is between an art gallery and coffee shop. Students are not confined to a small space and they have opportunities to work outdoors as well.
The in-person session includes activities that will support students to retain the material they’ve studied independently. Activities include reflective discussions about literature, speech and debates, oral examinations and written exams. In the hybrid environment, busywork is unnecessary; every moment spent in class is spent on challenging the students and fostering the student’s intellect.
Gary Gyultemiryan is the Director and Co-Founder of Chesterton School of Liberal Arts. He lives in Glendale with wife and daughter. He reads mountains of books and enjoys attending philosophical lectures and spiritual events in Los Angeles County. G.K. Chesterton is one of his favorite authors.
Chesterton School of Liberal Arts is an affordable flex classical academy with an emphasis in Mandarin Chinese and Spanish language programs and professional preparedness. We welcome students of all backgrounds.
We provide a safe, transparent and welcoming atmosphere to equip our students’ young minds with the virtues, knowledge and skills they need to guide our world into the next frontier. Our flexible hybrid structure combines the best of a traditional private school with the flexibility and comfort of online education.
Join us in our pursuit of truth, beauty and goodness by reading our blog and connecting with us here and on social media. We look forward to sharing our story with you.
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