LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Lawrence losing educational focus

Allison Augustyn ’01

As a recent graduate of Lawrence, I find that distance allows me to better appreciate my four-year education. I matriculated under the impression that Lawrence was a premier liberal-arts school, with a competant faculty and good facilities. And I still believe this. I also believe, however, that Lawrence is beginning a series of changes that will drastically affect the caliber of the school in the near future. While the list of changes is long and weighty, the most important change concerns the faculty and educational requirements.

In my four years at Lawrence, I have seen an emphasis placed upon “newer” educational requirements, such as minority literature and African-American history. If these classes were offered merely as additional credits, I would not complain. I believe, however, that the trend to “embrace diversity”, as a newer professor once termed it, and become more accepting of others, others being any person different than ourselves, is starting to infringe upon the fundamental purpose of a liberal arts education.

The purpose of liberal arts is to provide a foundation for the liberal thinker. A liberal arts education should provide a background in many areas, so that a student may learn to think logically, form opinions and theories based on research and conversation, and so that a student may come into contact with any number of subjects and form an intelligent opinion based on reasonable information.

These new classes are too specific, too stylized to adequately take the place of some of the basic teachings that Lawrence currently provides. And the recent additions to the faculty reflect and reinforce these changes. Those newer professors who did manage to maintain the old, and in my opinion better, Lawrence curriculum were denied tenure.

While these new classes have their place, I believe that place to be somewhere else, and I urge Lawrence administration to reconsider current tendacies toward a literal “liberal” arts school. When I hear that Lawrence is “twenty years behind the times,” I bristle with the thought that someone considers eighteenth-century literature, the history of Greece, or the fundamental workings of British and American government as obsolete. But then I remember that perhaps the critics were not fortunate enough to have taken these classes while they were caught up in the latest ground-breaking work by Maya Angelou. But then, that’s a cheap shot.