The term liberal arts refers to a particular type of educational curriculum broadly defined as a classical education.
The term 'liberal arts' is a college or curriculum aimed at imparting general knowledge and developing intellectual capacities, in contrast to a professional
, vocational, or technical
curriculum. In classical antiquity
, the term designated the education proper to a freeman (Latin
, "free") as opposed to a slave
. Martianus Capella
(5th century AD) defines the seven Liberal Arts as grammar, dialectic, rhetoric and geometry, arithmetic, astronomy, music. In the medieval Western university
, the seven liberal arts were:
In modern colleges and universities, the liberal arts include the study of art, literature, languages, philosophy, history, mathematics, and science.
Expansion to include visual arts
During the Renaissance
a considerable propaganda campaign was mounted to support the promotion to the number of liberal arts of architecture
, though not necessarily for their inclusion in the educational curriculum in the same way. Previously they had been classified among the mechanical or manual arts. Among those writing to support their inclusion were Leon Battista Alberti
, Leonardo da Vinci
, Giorgio Vasari
and many others. At least in Italy, and among Renaissance humanists
, the battle was largely won by about 1500, though in remoter regions like Spain and England the process took up to another century.
Liberal arts colleges
Liberal arts colleges are institutions which place a particular emphasis upon undergraduate study in the liberal arts. Generally, a full-time, four-year course of study at a liberal arts college leads students to a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science degree. Liberal arts colleges have traditionally emphasized interactive instruction (although research is still a component of these institutions) and are usually residential. They typically have a smaller enrollment, class size, and higher teacher-to-student ratios than universities. These colleges also encourage a high level of teacher-student interaction at the center of which are classes taught by full-time faculty rather than graduate student teaching assistants (who teach some classes at Research I and other universities). Although the genesis for what is known today as the liberal arts college began in Europe, the term is commonly associated with liberal arts colleges in the United States. Liberal arts colleges are found in countries all over the world as well.
Following completion of their undergraduate studies at liberal arts colleges, students may continue on to graduate study in other institutions, such as professional schools (for instance, in business, law, medicine, or theology) or graduate schools.
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- T. Kaori Kitao, William R. Kenan, Jr."The Usefulness Of Uselessness" Keynote Address, The 1999 Institute for the Academic Advancement of Youth's Odyssey at Swarthmore College, 27 March 1999