October 2, 2009
It is appropriate at the start of the university year that writer Denis Deveau should publish an article on a Liberal Arts Education – “It is a matter of degrees”. (The StarPhoenix, Sept. 2, 2009)
Denise Deveau implies that a Liberal Arts education produces grads that are innovative, creative thinkers and are able to think “outside the box.” I beg to differ. It is my considered opinion that any innovative thinking demonstrated by Arts students is due more to the survival of innate imaginative talents than to the inculcation of new talents by the university.
The university does not reward innovative thought as demonstrated by the operation of its unspoken credo: “Qualification by regurgitation”. Two examples serve to illustrate students’ attitudes towards the grading philosophy. A female student, after being chided for her imaginative answer to a test question, cried out in anguish, “But I thought that the university was a place where you could try out new ideas?” A student in a CBC Radio documentary commenting on her academic achievements said, “I didn’t get here by rocking the boat.”
The method for conveying the curriculum message to the students is called “Teaching”, but on closer examination the method appears to be patterned on “Preaching.” As we know “Preaching” allows no challenge. In such a model, innovative thinking is discouraged (it is interesting to note that the professor’s lectern bears and uncanny resemblance to the preacher’s pulpit).
In this “House of many mansions” there is no department or even a single class designed to explore and develop imaginative thinking.
During its 100 years of operation, the University of Saskatchewan has not had its Alexis de Tocqueville (social analyst) let alone a Martin Luther (reformer). It is about time.
U of S alumnus and audit student
Office of Communications, University of Saskatchewan