Why I want my son to attend a liberal arts college

Have you ever watched somebody steal $120 and laugh about it?

I was standing outside the iron fence that separated me from 82,000 roaring Division I football fans, peering in, wishing I had five tickets. My family and I had traveled to a large university to examine the prospect of the school for my son, a high school senior, to attend.

As my family watched the kickoff, I watched the two undergraduates that stood beside me. They waited, giddy with excitement, to enter the stadium. Their friend, having entered the gate with a ticket and received his “hand stamp,” approached from inside the fence, licked his stamped hand and pressed it against that of his friend standing beside me, transferring the red star from skin to skin. After the ticket was passed, the friend entered the gate.

The process was repeated with the final friend, and all three students were inside the stadium. I looked down the fence and saw another group of students doing the same thing. Three or four students in the big game for a single $60 ticket is quite a good deal. But, it’s dishonest.

I am certainly not under the delusion that such dishonesty is not present on the Maryville College campus or any other signature liberal arts college, but I am convinced that the community established on such liberal arts colleges is not characterized by such behavior.

Perusing Yik Yak is an interesting way to assess our student community compared to that of other colleges and universities. When I do this comparison (yes, professors are on Yik Yak), most of the time I come away happy—but certainly not always. I do know that the students I teach this semester in Sci150, Bio299 and Bio412 meet the same high moral and academic standards of the MC students I taught 15 years ago.

My “big university” experience solidified my resolve that I want my son to attend a liberal arts college, and, while MC would be a great school for him, the fact that his dad is one of the professors is leading him to look at other peer institutions. Having taught at both a large Division I University and at a small liberal arts college, I am convinced that for most students, a residential liberal arts college is the best choice because:

1. The community of a quality liberal arts college is characterized by scholarship, respect and integrity.

2. The goal of a college should be to transform a student and to academically prepare them for their future career/calling. A low student to professor ratio is crucial to meet this goal.

3. Liberal arts colleges avoid narrow specialization, and in a world characterized by rapid technological and cultural change, the broad-based fundamental education provided by such institutions provides the best preparation.

4. Collegiality is the norm on the campus of liberal arts colleges. Partnerships among staff, students and faculty produce a community of individuals working toward bettering the world that we live in.

While my son will likely not experience the deafening roar of 80,000 or 100,000 screaming football fans at his future liberal arts college, he will receive a transformational college experience that will prepare him for a fruitful life. What else could a parent want?

One thought on “Why I want my son to attend a liberal arts college

  • November 17, 2014 at 8:59 am

    And hopefully they will get an ethics course at a liberal arts college that is not just directed to their narrow professional plans.


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