Features & Perspectives

Some years back, Lakeland received a National Endowment for the Humanities grant for curriculum development. The intent was to ensure our induction of students into a learning experience that embraced the values of a liberal education while preparing them for meaningful lives of work and service (i.e. a curriculum that reflected what faculty believed was important for graduates to be and do).

That intent remains the primary reason for Lakeland’s existence. Implicit in that intent is an obligation of the faculty to (1) bring the ancient tradition of liberal education into the here and now with an eye toward what might be and (2) honor an epistemological tradition that dates back to the German Enlightenment.

Our foundational curriculum in 1892 reflected the philosophies of Kant and Schleiermacher. We were Kantian in the assumption that reason is the source of aesthetics, higher thinking, morality and experience. From Schleiermacher, commonly regarded as the father of liberal theology, we incorporated the conflation of theory and practice in interpretation and understanding. These Germanic theories of knowledge differed from Enlightenment thought across the remainder of Europe because of the inclusion of experience with reason.

I confess to a hermeneutic suspicion when considering the liberal arts as the sine qua non of who we are and what we do at Lakeland. We here are strong proponents of open-minded and disciplined investigation of and reflection upon complex subjects from multiple perspectives through an educational program that develops the capacity to analyze, synthesize, draw conclusions and communicate results.

We believe that such an educational program should emphasize breadth and depth, critical thinking, problem solving and independent learning. Yet, I struggle with the reality that the liberal arts and their classical antecedents were too long the domain of the privileged, thus helping perpetuate a class system. So, as a student of liberationists like Romero and Freire, I tell myself that Lakeland’s educational program is actually one in liberatory consciousness rather than the liberal arts.

Fortunately, a Muskie by any other name is still a Muskie.