The Liberal Arts – or, "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means!"
The Liberal Arts have nothing to do with Leftist ideology; they are those arts which a) are proper to a free person, and b) actually makes us free.
A discussion of the meaning of “liberal” as classically understood – and used in terms like “the liberal arts.” Or, as a classically-trained person might say to a modern-day Leftist (quoting the famous Inigo Montoya), “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means!”
Liberal arts colleges, or the liberal arts in general, were not supposed to be – and should not be – hotbeds of Left-wing ideology, still less of the suppression of free speech and freedom of inquiry, as they too often are, these days. Quite the contrary, in fact! That is counter to the meaning of the word.
Not to steal Dr. Perrin’s thunder (watch the video, it is very interesting and helpful, and I learned something about the origin of “liber”: the root of both “liberal” and “liberty”), but they are supposed to be the arts proper to a free person, as well as the arts that – that is to say, the exercise of which – set a person free!
That is why I do not like to call Leftists “liberals”; they aren’t. I don’t even like to use the word “progressive,” because they are in fact deeply regressive! They are turning vigorously away from liberty and progress, toward ideological authoritarianism and totalitarianism, tyranny and despotism. There is nothing liberal or progressive about them! As C.S. Lewis wrote,
“We all want progress. But... if you have taken a wrong turning then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man. There is nothing progressive about being pig-headed and refusing to admit a mistake. And I think if you look at the present state of the world it’s pretty plain that humanity has been making some big mistakes. We’re on the wrong road. And if that is so we must go back. Going back is the quickest way on.”
More on the liberal arts, what they are, why they are arts, and how they make us free:
And just a little bit more on the seven Liberal Arts, themselves, which further illustrates just how far we have come from our origins in this, as it so many other realms of life:
I am deeply thankful that I completed my academic studies at a time in which – although “political correctness” was growing – full-blown “woke”-ness was still largely absent, and the classical conception of the Liberal Arts still held traction, even among the more Leftward-leaning of my college and university professors, and it certainly was not a major feature of my public school experience. Today’s students are not nearly so fortunate! Thank God for the burgeoning interest in classical Christian education! It may be the only thing that saves us, if anything can…