Why Am I at Trinity?
A defense of the liberal arts.
A few weeks ago I was talking with my six year old nephew, Charlie. He's just starting to read books all the way through by himself, and so our conversation inevitably led to the books he'd been reading. As any kid who is just learning to master something, he couldn't stop talking about it, going on and on about all the libraries around his house and how great they all were. Of course, I agreed with him the whole time, telling him about how great books are, and how useful libraries can be. I told him how often I use the library for school, about the books I check out for fun, and about how many things I learn at school that I could get just as easily learn out of a library book. Then Charlie asked me, why I was at Trinity instead of at the library? It was not a hard question to answer, there are some things that you just can't learn at the library, but it brought to my mind a question that I think most Trinity students end up asking at some point in their studies, "Why am I here? Why Trinity?"
Usually, those who enjoy the school say they're here because it’s a fantastic Christian university. And to be sure, it really is a fantastic Christian university. But to be honest, I wish more people said they were here because it’s a fantastic Christian liberal arts university. Unfortunately, many students here don't even know what it means to be a liberal arts university. I certainly didn't when I enrolled last spring.
So what exactly are the liberal arts? Lets make one thing very clear, the liberal arts are not the core classes that every student here has to take, nor is it the combination of English, history, and philosophy that many schools offer as a dedicated liberal arts program. The liberal arts are a commitment to wholeness. They are a lifestyle, the statement that we do not want to label ourselves and box ourselves in. From their beginning in ancient Greece the liberal arts was a program of study including physical exercise, art, science, math, and English. However, it has never been these specific subjects that make the program great. Instead, it is the commitment to knowledge as a whole that sets it apart from other forms of education. The commitment to understanding not only your area of study, but also how that study fits into the wider context of God's creation, how it connects to those areas of knowledge that you don't focus on.
For most of the last two thousand years, education meant one of two things: either an apprenticeship to learn a trade, or a liberal arts schooling to become a scholarly individual. In the modern world, less and less people find themselves forced into an apprenticeship. We are, however, still faced with the same fundamental question when it comes to education: are we just here for a job, or are we here to become intelligent individuals who know about the world around them? I for one am here for more than a job. If a paycheck was all I wanted from my education, I'd be at a public school learning Mandarin while double majoring in Econ and Computer Science. I'm not doing those things, however. Instead I'm here at Trinity, learning not only my trade, but also learning the purpose of that trade in relation to the rest of the world, in relation to the rest of the trades that God has created.
So the next time you find yourself in BIO 103, or HKIN 190, or whatever stupid number choir is, try taking a mental pause. Take a few moments to grumble about how boring the course is, how you'll never use the information you get from it, and how your wasting $2000 on the stupid piece of crap. Get that of your system, because chances are at least a few of your criticisms are correct. But after you've done that, take another few moments to ask again why you’re here at Trinity: is it because you want a career, or is it because you want to understand how your career fits into God’s kingdom?