What Is a Liberal Arts Education?

A Conversation at U.C. Santa Cruz

One of the great things about UC Santa Cruz is its reputation as an innovative liberal arts institution — and while developing our Academic Literacy Curriculum, a few of its designers and teachers decided we wanted to learn more about the liberal arts — what is a liberal arts education exactly? Does it just mean “broad learning” or “the freedom to ask big questions” while pursuing your course of study?

To help answer these questions I called up seven members of the UC Santa Cruz community, asked them all about the unique ways that we teach and learn here— with some key questions in mind — what are the benefits of learning from multiple disciplines, rather than just one? What are some of the deeper purposes of our liberal arts learning? How can the liberal arts continue to justice, equity and inclusion?



I. Introduction — why is the liberal arts important to us? What have we gained from it as teachers, learners, writers, and researchers?

II. The World Through More Than One Lens [6:02]

1. What does “liberal arts” mean in everyday conversation? What does it tend to mean to university teachers? [6:20]

2. Ryan Frizzell and Taina Morales — studying power and punishment, studying social sciences, through different lenses and in different spheres [11:39]

3. Reyna Grande and Tracy Larrabee — satire, music, the liberal arts, and the crafts of writing, storytelling, and practical problem-solving [12:33]

4. Anna Tsing — the term anthropocene — originally “an epoch of human impact fundamentally impacting the Earth”, and perhaps also “the world condition of human-caused environmental catastrophe” — how do its meanings shift as we move from one discipline to another? [15:05]

III. A Sense of Purpose [16:19]

1. Anna Tsing and Ben Carson — the roots of the “interdisciplinary” revolution at UC Santa Cruz, and what it means to “be social” [17:24]

2. Reyna Grande and Ryan Frizzell — Can interdisciplinarity do more than just broaden our experience? Thinking critically, thinking about how others might think [19:25]

IV. Liberal Arts and Justice [21:51]

1. Anna Tsing — the uneven effect of environmental problems on human communities [23:20]

2. Daryl Jones — ethics and the making of Tender [24:29]

3. Taina Morales — decolonizing my education [26:46]

4. Catherine Jones, Reyna Grande — more work to be done [27:38]

Full Conversations:

[Stay tuned! To be uploaded by Wednesday, August 11]



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Ben Leeds Carson

Data-driven piano music. Post-secondary public education. Post-primary public wellness. Mindlessness therapy. <http://benleedscarson.com/>