As a student at a liberal arts college, there stands a requirement to accumulate a minimum number of course credit hours that expose oneself to the four breadth areas: art/expression, social/civic, science/description, and value/meaning. The four breadth areas are meant to shed light on, demonstrate, and give insight on applying education to varying life experiences. These areas of study, each with a unique focus, create a well-rounded education that prepares the student for real-world involvement.
Where Growth Has Occurred
It is not accurate to say that I know all there is to know regarding the four breadth areas. There may not even be one breadth area where I completely understand it in all its entirety, but within each breadth area, there is a portion where I exceed. I surpass in these areas due, in large part, to my learning styles and multiple intelligences.
The art/expression breadth area involves “the ability to express oneself in a variety of domains, cognitive, affective, or psychomotor” (Breadth Area Requirement at the Adult Campuses and Online, n.d.). Through varying artistic expressions, the student should have the basic ability to express and discuss the nature of the work (Breadth Area Requirement at the Adult Campuses and Online, n.d.). Some of the educational courses that fall under this breadth area include, but are not limited to: Creative Writing, Foreign Language, Literature, and Art.
The strength I possess under the art/expression field, is creative writing. I excel in placing words onto paper and expressing myself through written communication. Often, writing my feelings, experiences, and dreams, is a lot easier than saying them out loud. I find a sense of relaxation and peace when I write.
The social/civic breadth area “emphasizes the understanding of human behavior whether as individuals and/or groups” (Breadth Area Requirement at the Adult Campuses and Online, n.d.). Excelling in this area of study encompasses involvement in volunteer organizations, churches, schools, or local government (Breadth Area Requirement at the Adult Campuses and Online, n.d.). Examples of some educational courses that fall under the social/civic breadth are include: Sociology, Economics, Psychology, and Political Science.
As part of my first undergraduate study program, I minored in Sociology. The study of how outside factors play a role in the growth, structure, and purpose of a person within society is intriguing. The human mind is so complex and intricate; believing you can recognize accurately how every person works is nearly impossible. However, there are basic understandings to a person’s upbringing. I like to believe I understand human behavior well enough to be able to relate to others on most levels.
The science/description breadth area “allows one to describe reality through symbols, numbers, and other concepts leading to a greater clarity of awareness and increased problem-solving skills” (Breadth Area Requirement at the Adult Campuses and Online, n.d.). Stated by Ottawa University, science/description courses “foster analysis, synthesis, and evaluation” and include: Statistics, Chemistry, Accounting, and Physics (Breadth Area Requirement at the Adult Campuses and Online, n.d.).
I am a logical and hands-on learner, making the science/description breadth area a strength of mine. I have always enjoyed working out mathematic problems and conducting experiments. I learn best through hands-on demonstrations and visual examples.
The value/meaning breadth area gives students the ability to “confront values and demonstrate the ability to recognize and analyze values in a reflective and even creative way” (Breadth Area Requirement at the Adult Campuses and Online, n.d.). Sample courses that fall under this area of study consist of: Ethics, Philosophy, and Religion. This area brings up the subjects of death, marriage, multiculturalism, family units, and the purpose of life.
My strength in the field of value/meaning, is my tendency to always ask “why”. I am constantly curious to find the deeper meaning of things and why they happen. It is fascinating to study and attempt to comprehend the purpose and meaning of human existence.
Where Growth is Needed
In education, there is always room for improvement and development. The four liberal arts breadth areas are helpful in educating oneself in many facets, but to be an expert in all areas would require more study than I could obtain in my lifetime. However, there are areas I would like to more fully develop in my knowledge and skill.
When it comes to government and politics, there is a lot for me to learn. I understand its importance; however, I struggle with finding the interest. I lack the drive to research the political parties when it comes time to vote for all government systems, from presidential to local government.
The social/civic breadth area is where I tend to listen to single stories and make decisions before knowing all information, creating stereotypes. Developing my thoughts and conclusions based on a single story leaves room for incomplete and inaccurate conclusions. Making the choice without knowing all material creates stereotypes which may hold incomplete or false information. If I choose to listen to a one person’s perspective and not perform my own research, that could lead to mistakes of voting for someone or something I truly do not believe in.
With the complexity of the life, I feel there will always be something new to learn and ways to expand knowledge in this vast field; however, because I attended a liberal arts college, the world became a little more understandable. Harris stated, “a thorough knowledge of a wide range of events, philosophies, procedures, and possibilities makes the phenomena of life appear coherent and understandable. No longer will unexpected or strange things be merely dazzling or confusing” (Harris, 2010).
Since my previous college courses in Ethics, Literature, and Art, I now have a better understanding of the world and its values, and because of this, I have the ability to learn more. “Knowledge builds upon knowledge. When you learn something, your brain remembers how you learned it and sets up new pathways, and if necessary, new categories, to make future learning faster” (Harris, 2010). I will continue my educations in belief systems, values, and the purpose of life to hopefully one day have a better understanding of the world around me.
The four liberal arts breadth areas are meant to demonstrate and prepare students on applying their education to varying life experiences. These areas of study, each with a unique focus, create a well-rounded education that prepares the student for real-world involvement. Throughout my formal education, I did not recognize how or when I would practice these fields of study after graduation. As I look back at my life, I realize I have been using them all along. The liberal arts college gives students the chance to be something more than just a Biology major, a History major, or an English major. The liberal arts college “aspires to nurture the growth of human talent in the service of human freedom” (Cronon, 1998). A liberal arts college and the four breadth areas, teach you how to think, learn, and apply the material in all aspects of life.
To continue my learning and growth in the four breadth areas, I will continue to practice on my own and through continued education. I will continue to add value and meaning to my life, learning the purpose of life. I will work at bettering my understanding and taking part in the social and civic areas of life such as politics; making sure my voice is heard. I will continue to evaluate the world around me and stay interested in how and why things work the way they do or the way they should. Lastly, I will continue to express myself and bring color and beauty to world around me. Life is a continuous learning experience and I look forward to continuing my growth in the liberal arts breadth areas.