NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

July 2, 2013

In appreciation of a liberal arts education

(Continued)

In history, I found teachers who taught reasons behind the development of nations. Paul Toth taught European history with a quiet dignity that left no stone unturned until we knew how Europe was formed from the 14th to the 20th century. Fred Klein taught modern history through newsreels. This, I thought, was like dying and going to heaven; all that was missing was popcorn. We witnessed the Crimean War, Russo-Japanese War, WWI and WWII, the rise of Communism and the Depression.

Elias Phillips opened up a world of self-expression in expository writing. He handed out magazines such as the (long-gone) Saturday Evening Post featuring Norman Rockwell covers and advised us to write a 500-word essay on Rockwell’s subject. My imagination went into high gear and, as it turned out, was the nucleus of a writing career 25 years later: over 500 essays for three newspapers, a myriad of articles for sales and marketing magazines, a book, “Humor Is Life’s Lubricant,” and innumerable reports that resulted in advancement to managerial positions.

Three courses in English helped immensely in understanding the rights of man from the Magna Carta to the Declaration of Independence. Chaucer, Shakespeare and Dickens provided a primer in understanding life as it was lived then, as well as now. “Canterbury Tales” by Chaucer, the father of English poetry, tells of a religious pilgrimage in the Middle Ages by a group of people, of different social classes and the result of their association. Shakespeare’s “King Lear” tells of the fate of kings; “Ulysses” gave me a close look at the Greek siege of Troy; “King Henry V,” his victory at Agincourt and the king’s glorious statement, “We happy few, we band of brothers.” Dickens, the social reformer, was enlightening in detailing the law vs. the poor, social evils culminating in the conflict between the aristocracy and the lower classes, privations of boarding schools and the corrupting influence of wealth in the rising middle class. It was a “primer” for understanding life as it’s lived today.

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