Are you curious about the ideas of your generation and generations past? Do you want to learn to express your own unique perspective on the world? Liberal arts colleges are epicenters of learning for people like you. They encourage and inspire diverse minds to exchange ideas, reflect on great literature and history, and broaden their understandings of the world around them.
If these elements of learning sound suited to you, it’s wise to learn more about where they come from and why they matter. When you follow this path to a progressive college, make sure it offers the four core values all top liberal arts schools share.
1. Critical Thinking is Central to Top Liberal Arts Schools
Broadening your world begins with broadening your mind. That’s why the best colleges endeavor to turn students into great thinkers with open minds and sharp critical analysis skills.
When you attend one of the top liberal arts schools you’ll develop critical thinking habits of your own. You’ll learn to thoroughly assess evidence, concepts, and arguments to formulate your own intellectual positions on any subjects at hand. If you’ve already got a streak of intellectual curiosity in you, these spaces will hone your skills with practice in dialogical thinking, questioning, and open-mindedness.
2. Curriculums Bound Together with Great Books
At a top liberal arts college, you’ll enter into conversation with the greatest thinkers in the world. You’ll find them in great books: foundational and revolutionary humanities, natural and social sciences documents and texts, from Shakespeare plays to Marx manifestos and scores of great literature in between.
The original “Great Books Curriculum’ was developed by 19th century Chicagoan and education-reform activist Robert Maynard Hutchins. Hutchins fought against overspecialization and championed a balance between college curriculum and Western intellectual tradition. He believed an effective way to engage with Western thought was to study great books in a progressive, liberal setting.
It’s tradition: students at small liberal arts colleges learn from great books, not textbooks.
Today’s best liberal arts colleges carry this tradition forward with curricula based around books by history’s greatest thinkers. It might be this tradition that helped liberal arts colleges produce some of the greatest thinkers of our own time, from Jack Kerouac to Steve Jobs to Hillary Rodham Clinton.
3. Top Liberal Arts Schools Offer Dialogue-Based Education
In small liberal arts colleges, students are encouraged to communicate and engage with each other about the material at hand.
For example, in Shimer courses, students and professors explore texts in-depth in open atmospheres where students are encouraged to ask questions, offer interpretations, and disagree with each other. This kind of dialogue-based education enables students to discern new ideas and expand their thinking in ways that silent study simply can’t.
If you enroll in a liberal arts college with a focus on dialogue in the classroom, you’ll learn to listen actively, express yourself effectively, and speak persuasively and imaginatively—key skills you’ll use after graduation in the career of your choosing.
4. Liberal Arts Colleges Promote Collaboration Over Competition
The world’s current problems are nothing if not complex. Learning to collaborate effectively with others better situates students to tackle these problems as a team, instead of competing with each other as is done in the traditional higher education classroom. Replacing competitive energy with a collaborative spirit makes schools like Shimer richer and warmer places to learn and grow.
At small liberal arts colleges, collaboration is the key to success.
Working in teams that build upon your strengths, you’ll not only set yourself up for better job prospects, but deepen and diversify your understanding of the world around you.
If these values speak to you, consider enrolling in a liberal arts college in Chicago.
Visit Shimer to learn more about what our critical, collaborative approaches to dialogue-based, ‘great books’ education can offer you.