[Man’s task on earth] … has to be the fulfillment of a permanent, earnest duty so that one’s life journey may become an experience of moral growth, so that one may leave life a better human being than one started it.
Alexander Solzhenitsyn, “World Split Apart,” 1978
In an age when higher education is being thought of more and more as job training, why does Gutenberg College emphasize the liberal arts in the unique way that it does? The program at Gutenberg is based on three foundational assumptions:
- A good education cultivates skill, knowledge, and wisdom.
- A liberal arts education is useful in all situations.
- Education is both objective and personal
What follows is an explanation of how each of these assumptions plays a part in the education offered at Gutenberg College.
A good education seeks to promote skill, knowledge, and wisdom.
In recent times, education has become equated with preparation to make a good living. Education at Gutenberg College hearkens back to an earlier and more universal understanding—namely, that education is preparation to live a good life. Living a good life requires more than just knowledge or conformity to a societal expectation; it requires wisdom and understanding. A true education provides the tools to sort out that which is wise from that which is not; it gives those who want to make sense of life the learning skills they can apply to all fields of human knowledge. Consequently, an education worthy of the name focuses on the following:
- the development of sound learning skills,
- the acquisition of a broad base of knowledge, and
- the construction of a well-considered worldview grounded in wisdom.
Gutenberg seeks to develop in each student the skills of reading difficult material with understanding, writing clearly and persuasively, and thinking critically. Students are expected to interpret and critique the works they read, to explain their understanding in a clear and rational way, and to write orderly, well-reasoned, and convincing papers. By acquiring basic learning skills, students become lifelong learners who remain adaptable in a rapidly changing world.
Rational thinking is essential to evaluating the world around us. An essential component of any good education, therefore, will be the development and sharpening of our God-given ability to reason.
Knowledge, of course, is a primary goal of any college education. At Gutenberg College, Knowledge is seen as the servant of understanding and provides the raw materials that intellectual skill uses as it moves toward wisdom. Since truth is a consistent, coherent unity, knowledge from many different disciplines serve to deepen a person’s understanding. The human condition is extremely complex. Thus, knowledge and perspectives from a variety of domains–science, art, mathematics, economics, psychology, history, sociology–all work together to bring depth of understanding to the learner.
The ultimate goal of the educated person is wisdom, an ability to see things as they truly are and to live in the light of that understanding. Gutenberg seeks to aid students as they begin the lifelong task of constructing a sound and coherent worldview. One’s worldview–that is, one’s perspective on the nature of reality and the meaning of life–affects one’s choices in one’s vocation, relationships, and faith.
All humans have a worldview, and out of that worldview flow the choices that make a life. Wisdom is knowing what kinds of choices are appropriate, and how those choices may affect other areas of life. Fundamental to one’s worldview is how one understands himself, others, and God. If thought precedes, action, then there is no more significant enterprise than thinking well.
All worldviews have at heart a concept of morality–that is, what is right and wrong, and what makes something right or wrong.
Gutenberg exists for students who want to investigate these distinctions and who want to build a worldview oriented toward goodness. Such development does not come by imposing rules; rather, it comes by challenging students to live in the light of their developing worldview. Gutenberg students work closely with each other, and this provides many opportunities for character development and growing in wisdom. The ideas of the classroom become real since they must be faced in the life of the community.
A liberal arts education is truly practical.
As discussed above, the goals of the liberal arts education at Gutenberg College are a broad base of knowledge, a sharpened set of learning skills, and a coherent worldview grounded in wisdom. The benefits of such things go far beyond the workplace, although they certainly include the workplace. They are searching for employees who can learn new things and adapt to new situations, who can communicate complex ideas, and who have the character and integrity to work effectively with others.
Even more importantly, however, the combination of skill, knowledge, and wisdom that Gutenberg College seeks to foster has the power to benefit the student’s entire life.
Education must be both objective and personal.
Gutenberg College is committed to the idea that there exists an objective truth that can be known, rooted in the nature of God and His creation. Truth does not vary from person to person but is a fixed reality with which each person must come to terms. That process of wrestling with truth, however, is very personal and subjective. Gutenberg College seeks to recognize both the objective nature of truth and the subjective nature of learning. Over the course of four years, students are exposed to the fundamental questions of life and the answers, good and bad, offered by our cultural heritage. Ultimately, however, students must formulate answers to these questions for themselves. In the process, the Gutenberg College faculty encourage students to pursue truth and reason wherever they might lead.
This recognition of the personal, subjective nature of true learning has led to the following two important aspects of the Gutenberg experience:
First, while the Gutenberg College faculty are committed advocates of a biblical worldview, believing the Bible to be the inspired and inerrant word of God, they are also convinced that developing a sound and healthy worldview requires a non-coercive educational environment. Gutenberg’s faculty grant students the freedom to reach their own conclusions. No student, therefore, is required to subscribe to a particular doctrinal stance or to embrace a particular set of religious practices. The strength of the Christian worldview becomes most apparent when it can hold its own in the marketplace of ideas.
Second, the personal nature of learning suggests that apprenticeship is a better model for education than is lecturing. Under the guidance of these tutors, students acquire learning skills by observing the tutors exercise the arts of learning, by practicing those arts themselves, and by receiving instruction from the tutors. Students are encouraged to dialogue critically with the texts they read, with their fellow students, and with their tutors.