NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

July 2, 2013

In appreciation of a liberal arts education

It has been many years, 60 in fact, since my formal education ended. Controversy was just as much in vogue then as today regarding the subject of a liberal arts major. Why waste a degree on the humanities, as some said; was it a proper training for life?

I graduated from high school in 1947, the son from an immigrant family who had no thoughts of higher education; a job, making money was the prime emphasis of life. It took two years working as a laboratory technician before it became obvious to me that advancement was not in the cards without a college degree. I selected Franklin and Marshall College, Lancaster, Pa., because it had good liberal arts courses, close to New Jersey, my home, and was all male; less distractions.

F&M, at that time, had two required courses for graduation: religion and public speaking. Just like other incoming freshmen, I felt the courses could be tolerated, but not enjoyed. I was wrong. Those two opened my eyes, as no others. Religion gave me a basis for thought of who I am and why am I here. The Bible was taught as history from the time of Moses through Paul’s journeys. In retirement, the people and places I visited in Italy, Israel and Jordan were as real as I had read of them as an undergraduate. The struggle of secular vs. church power was an eye-opener that made its history come alive. It wasn’t just dates and name, it was the movement of empires and establishment of nations.

Public speaking gave me a platform from which to express myself; to speak and be acknowledged. These lessons proved invaluable for the sales and marketing career that lasted 40 years until retirement in 1995. Varied course selection gave me an opportunity to choose: three years of chemistry, physics, bacteriology, three years of English, one year of French, psychology and a number of history courses, my major.

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