The classical liberal arts education is one of the most misunderstood subjects in the modern age. The vernacular practically prohibits anyone but a scholar of language from being able to discern the difference between painting on a canvas and the academic definition of “arts,” and in most modern political contexts, the word “liberal” has little to do with higher education.
That said, there has been a consistent definition of liberal arts for centuries, and the course of study recommended by those who respect its limits and emphases is one that has produced brilliant individuals and the very idea of public education itself.
There are few courses of study more valuable to an aspiring writer.
It has been famously observed that a person must practice a skill for ten thousand hours before they become proficient enough to choose it as a profession. This is true of writing as well. Authors contend they must produce and publish hundreds of thousands of words before they will have developed a proper sense of what will succeed and what will not.
A liberal arts degree requires voluminous writing, and not just on subjects that might be convenient for students. A traditional curriculum will test students and their understanding of both themselves and the subject matter in ways that other degree disciplines do not. Not only will the student be able to persuade with the written word, they will also be able to hold a reader’s attention.
The Centrality of Rhetoric
The well-educated liberal arts degree holder can effectively argue both sides of an issue. The reason is simple. All liberal arts curricula depend on the central skill of rhetoric. Debate, public speaking, law, politics, and good writing all depend on a solid sense of rhetoric, how to employ it and how to recognize it in academics and professional work.
A hunger for the kind of knowledge that can only be gained through concentrated study in rhetoric finds its voice in the words of a capable writer. It is very much like the athletic performance of someone who is in top physical shape. The dedicated athlete will be far more effective in their sport than one who is less than spirited about competition.
The Well-Read Student
Some schools refer to academic accomplishment as “reading” a particular subject. Such academic institutions are not too far off. There is no such thing as education without reading. It is the fundamental skill of all teaching. Literacy is an indispensable part of civilization itself. As a result, those who take advantage of the knowledge recorded by learned men and women are most likely to not only have a competent understanding of the world around them but are also more likely to contribute to human knowledge themselves.
One who is well-read has the raw materials they need to be well-written.
Any set of circumstances that leads an aspiring writer to challenging reads and the expansion of their horizons when it comes to potential subjects is one that should be pursued with the same zeal an accomplished attorney approaches arguing a case before the Supreme Court. The results might not be immediately obvious, but they are as certain as they can be.
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