Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Is a Liberal Arts Education All That It's Liberally Cranked Up to Be?

We all know that both elementary school students and faculty begin their day by saying the all-important Pledge of Allegiance and by singing patriotic songs that represent our democratic society to the fullest extent. Since students this young start to learn to obey the rules of their institutions and of their respective parents, it is very clear that they also begin to realize that the law is nothing without social and political order and an equal sense of civil obedience. Therefore, when they graduate from grade school and go on to high school, a stronger sense of political, social, and civic responsibility is reputably gained. And speaking of high school, students continue to build their "good citizenry" by building an almost equal sense of awareness about the complexities of the political process.
The problem regarding political socialization in the public (and private) school universe, however, is the fact that once high school students get closer to their graduation, many start to feel a stronger sense of alienation from their lawmakers' respective ideologies. They believe it is no longer necessary to engage themselves in such complexly hostile affairs if their formal curriculum no longer requires it. They also begin to critically and independently analyze our government, for it reinforces the fact that questioning local, state, and federal authorities about their stances on both foreign and domestic public policies is still "the right thing to do."
Although the alarming issue of high school seniors not being well-informed about our government and our Constitution may be already troubling to begin with, let us not forget that those who graduate from high school but refuse to move on to college are still worse off than their more elite counterparts. They say that enrolling at a post-secondary school lets both teenagers and young adults have more open-minded views not just in regards to public policy, but in regards to their overall social well-being and self-esteem as well. Therefore, they realize that the complex world we live in is, indeed, an universe in which there are no easy answers to some of our hardest questions, including abortion and gay rights. But, the good news is that they also start to appreciate the differences we have and how we can formally accept them for what they are, despite our most fundamental status quos. In other words, college-age students can begin to rescind the racial, sexual,and ethno-sectarian stereotypes and prejudices and learn to move on with their education by self-realizing their greatest potential in a more socially harmonious workforce, if all goes as planned.
Although many reports point out that college faculty have more liberal views than their pupils, it is still important to know that those who successfully register for courses in the liberal arts and sciences do, indeed, have a more liberal outcome altogether. For me, however, it is a completely different story, Although I would have to admit that my post-secondary education has made me much more aware of the people around my collective self-consciousness, I still hold the more moderate political and religious beliefs I have held since my childhood and early adolescence.
I can recall watching the 2000 Presidential Debate on "ABC News Tonight with Peter Jennings." As you would expect, former Vice President Al Gore viewed global warming as a grave threat at the time (he still does today!), but his Republican rival, on the other hand, didn't believe so. I most certainly didn't think Gore would make such a good role model for executive leadership overall. Yet if I turned 18 at the time, I would have voted for him not solely because of his party's agenda, but rather for his almost universalistic view of what would be considered an unclear yet ever-present danger.
It is still very difficult for me to draw the lines between what our politicians promise and what they actually do to benefit our country in the long run, regardless of what their party's policies have traditionally entailed for too many generations on in. As far as the 2008 presidential race is concerned, I may have a very hard time deciding who will be best at both combating international terrorism and at reforming our education and health care systems at home. The Republican candidates take a more hard-line stance towards fighting "Islamofascism," while their Democratic rivals seem to have a more comprehensive plan in place for "fixing" our social services back home. But if I start to believe that other pressing issues of the day begin to outweigh the issues I just mentioned before, I might begin to realize that my earthy liberalism, as well as my arch-conservatism, may not matter so much after all.

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