Tuesday, January 31, 2012


The particular “frontier” I am interested in exploring with you in this essay is the frontier of the liberal education that a college like Rollins purports to offer you.

No doubt there were many other reasons that led you to choose Rollins besides its “liberal arts and sciences curriculum,” for instance: its size, its location, its beautiful campus and its strong reputation, or perhaps the recommendation of Rollins graduates you may know.  In general, it probably seemed to you a happy place to spend four or so years earning an AB degree.
Those are good reasons, but not the most important reason educationally.  Though it may seem presumptuous to say so, Rollins aims essentially to change your mind, to liberate it from ignorance and fallacy, to open it to new vistas of possibility, and to confirm you in your commitment to higher purposes and aspirations than you had when you came: being better prepared to serve the world with your expanded knowledge and refined thinking.
As a result of your Rollins liberal education, which is not thrust upon you but earned by your studious commitment and effort, you should be more oriented and enabled to make a positive difference in the world after you graduate.  You will have more to contribute to the beneficial human enterprise, not simply to get a better job.
A liberal education is not explicitly vocational or professional training; rather, it is the development of intellect and sensibility along with specific skills, and the acquisition of general and specialized knowledge appropriate to a well-educated person.  To be at least acquainted with disciplines in the humanities, the arts, the sciences and social sciences, and to develop a life-long interest in such subjects is one mark of a liberally educated person.
Your desire not to be ignorant and to become a capable, resourceful, life-long learner should lead you to a college like Rollins.  You recognize that you may enjoy here an immense privilege as an undergraduate: the leisure to study, explore, develop abilities, and find guidance and encouragement in your intellectual growth and mastery.
Most important should be the commitment you make here to grow not merely more knowledgeable and skillful, but wiser: more insightful into what is of real value to yourself and others, and more determined to bring such value into the world to improve it—the world of the family, the community, the government, the ecosystem, the future.  Your liberal education should orient you to recognize the beautiful possibilities of a flourishing life on a flourishing planet, and to commit yourself to making it so.

Lift your sights to that frontier vision of why you are here.