Championing the Liberal Arts
In some circles, a liberal arts education is facing diverse challenges. Recently, University of St. Thomas – Houston has been reaffirming its commitment to the values and intellectual traditions of Catholic liberal education. In a March presentation for the "Seekers & Sages” alumni speakers series, Dr. Thomas Behr enlightened the audience about the history, evolution and current state of liberal education in a talk entitled “Liberal Arts for the 21st Century (?).”
The Argument Made Clear
Behr is the director of UST’s Master in Liberal Arts program and an assistant professor of history. He also is director of the new Integrated Humanities BA/BS program, UST’s new multidisciplinary liberal arts major. Dr. Behr demonstrated the evolution of liberal education from Greek and Roman antiquity to our own modern times. He made a strong argument for the essential role of liberal education in the development of the intellectual and practical virtues ever more necessary in a world of mass communication and politics.
He said, “The seven liberal arts — grammar, rhetoric, logic, math, geometry, astronomy and music — are training of the mind, both for self-knowledge and for encountering objective reality. These ‘arts’ are called liberal because they help prepare the soul for the well-ordered exercise of free will.”
The practical benefits from liberal arts education, Behr suggested, include those life-long dispositions helpful for a well-lived life, both spiritually and materially. When considering the professional needs to be “robot ready” and that “people switch careers, not just jobs” more often in our dynamic economy, acquiring skills for life-long learning is much more important than the choice of any particular college major.
“Consideration of the perennial questions about oneself and about the world, questions that come up in the arts and sciences that constitute liberal education, is needed more than ever in an age desperate for truth and virtuous leaders,” Behr added.
Toward the end of the presentation, Behr introduced UST’s new Executive MLA program designed particularly for UST alumni. The Executive MLA will debut in fall 2021 with the first of its Great Books seminars called “The Pursuit of Happiness.” Interested individuals may contact Behr at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Seekers & Sages
The Office of Alumni Relations offers Seekers & Sages events to engage alumni, benefactors and friends of UST by providing continuing education opportunities presented by distinguished faculty.
Former Senior Director of Alumni Relations and newly promoted Senior Director of USTMAX Center, Carla E. Alsandor, Ph.D, shared that future events will resume in person.
“When COVID-19 hit in 2020, I took Seekers and Sages online, where we hosted several enjoyable presentations by UST faculty members via Zoom,” Alsandor said. “Dr. Behr’s thought-provoking talk on the liberal arts was a perfect way to wrap up this virtual series, and we now look forward to welcoming our alumni back to campus next semester. Future dates and presenters will be determined under the leadership of our new Director of Alumni Relations, Amy Youngblood.”
To watch and listen to Behr’s presentation on Liberal Arts for the 21st Century, click here.