It is a widely accepted fact that in this day and age, the money is in the sciences. Call it a product of the 21st century computer boom or the 300 year trend toward industrialization, but the liberal arts just aren’t valued like they used to be. At many prestigious universities, humanities majors have halved.
Despite the fact that they might not always be perceived as moneymakers, the social, intellectual, and academic values of the liberal arts remain inarguable.
The social sciences, English, and language classes that we take throughout our education remain critical to our development as functional members of society.
In essence: sure, the ability to write a marvelous, 10 page character analysis just doesn’t have the same kind of mass marketing appeal as constructing a robot, but its contribution to our life is equally as important.
For the entirety of my time at The Gregory School, and well before that, our academic institution has been well renowned for its liberal arts program, perhaps more than anything else. Our history and language departments boast inspiring instructors that have imparted wisdom to TGS students for decades.
In fact, writing and the ability of Gregory School students to confidently and articulately communicate their ideas and passions to the world is certainly a core promise of the school.
Students at The Gregory School regularly write 20 page papers and frequently brag that college English courses are “a breeze” after a class with Mrs. Young or Mr. Mossman.
A few days ago a substitute teacher was shocked when he overheard students were composing 25 page essays for their history classes, to which he remarked “I couldn’t even write a five page paper until graduate school.”
Gregory School students are instructed on how to “write a lot, write well, and then rewrite” as long-time English teacher Robert Mossman put it.
We are encouraged to form opinions, to speak up in debates, and to be able to eloquently argue for ourselves on paper or in person. And it shows, as Gregory School students regularly receive admission to many of the best liberal arts schools in the country.
Increasingly more than ever though, education is a market. The educational opportunities in Tucson are more expansive than ever before, with many teenagers having a wide variety of excellent options to choose from for their schooling in public, private, and charter venues.
In face of the pure breadth of schools available and the unfortunate decline in Gregory School enrollment, The Gregory School has adopted by adding several new modern programs to our curriculum and extracurricular offerings.
This year alone we have built the Fab Lab, inserted Friday rotations, begun Project Inquiry, planned Interim trips, sent students to Israel for international physics competitions, constructed solar go karts, and above all else advertised the ever-growing, expansive STEM program at The Gregory School.
Recent publications in TGS Matters and BizTucson have underscored The Gregory School’s dedication to providing students with an utterly 21st century education.
This is not to say these developments are not exciting, or undeserved.
In fact TGS students have achieved extraordinary success in all of these fields, and their accomplishments have undoubtedly delivered praise and recognition of all of the fantastic things we have to offer.
But the truth is, in the interest of advertising all we have to offer, there is far more to The Gregory School than just our STEM departments.
So I’d like to propose the consideration of a return to the basics. The revitalization of what The Gregory School has specialized in for decades. Or, even just some moderation. Every school in Tucson, from Catalina Foothills High School to Sonoran Science Academy to BASIS can tout an extraordinary STEM program: but how many feature history departments that churn out students with the writing skills not just for college, but for a masters program?
How many attend English classes that demand them to critically evaluate their own work, rework it, and revise it in a one on one environment? How many uniquely bestow upon their students the irreplaceable gift of a liberal arts education?
An editorial by Eric Liu for CNN argued that “the humanities education offers very few skills except for those that can’t be automated,” pointing out that in a civic-duty oriented democracy like the United States, to be against the study of the liberal arts is to be against the concept of citizenship itself.
The idea that history, literature, theater, philosophy, economics, geography, political science, foreign languages, don’t prepare students for the real world or adequately equip us with the skills to succeed and triumph professionally is simply absurd.
Not only some, but the vast majority of US presidents possessed degrees in the liberal arts, while notable figures from Oprah Winfrey to Conan O’Brien are endowed with degrees that are in no way STEM related.
The Association of American Colleges & Universities even reports that unemployment rates for liberal arts majors remain exceedingly low.
In 2016, perhaps the best thing The Gregory School can do to distinguish itself is to do what nobody else is doing: a return to tradition and in that a return to the liberal arts.
As the irrefutably successful Steve Jobs noted, “Technology alone is not enough – it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that makes our heart sing.”
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