To be liberally educated is to be transformed. Open and free inquiry, a devotion to excellence, the development of character, the mastery of competencies, the ability to think critically, the excitement and rewards of learning — these are the aims and principles of a liberal arts education.
Liberal learning frees us from the restraints of time and place, enabling us to grow, to change and to respond to the new, the unforeseen, the unexpected. To be liberally educated is to live imaginatively in worlds not our own and to examine values not of our making.
A liberal education tests our ability to investigate and understand the nature of an organism, the applications of a theorem, the behavior of a crowd, the principles of a political system, the meaning of a poem, the causes of an event, the consequences of an argument or the composition of a symphony.
Liberal education promotes diversity, skepticism and debate. It views the world as changing, not fixed. It asks not only what, but why. It insists that we make judgments rather than have opinions; that we treat ideas seriously, not casually; that we be committed instead of indifferent.
Liberal education is vocational. It prepares us to assume positions of leadership and responsibility as wage-earners and citizens. To be liberally educated is not to be limited to a particular niche in the job market but to be freed and qualified for many opportunities. And, most important of all, it is to be equipped to assume new vocations and accept new challenges throughout life.
Students come to Lawrence with many career objectives and options — law, public service, health professions, business, service vocations, engineering, teaching, ministry. Liberal education is a prerequisite to all of these and more. Liberal learning provides the skills, the talents, the critical intelligence and the range that offers access to many careers.
Above all, however, a liberal education is a function of choice and self-discipline. Lawrence provides opportunities; it does not prescribe decisions. The privilege of liberal learning is the freedom to choose; the challenge of liberal learning is to choose responsibly.