Tag Archives: Open Minds

What the GEC? A Liberal Arts Education

4 Apr

Last night, I spent some extra hours on campus proctoring the GEC Exit Exam. It is a test that we give to our graduating seniors to see if they learned what we taught them in the General Education Core (GEC). As I read from a canned speech, we have taught them “a particular set of skills.” I really wanted to say that in a Liam Neeson voice.Liam Neeson

After reading the canned script, I told them what I really wanted to say. We are a Liberal Arts university and want them to leave with a well-rounded education. While being trained for a job is important, we believe that being exposed to different theories and ideas is what higher education is all about.

That is why the GEC is filled with History classes that cover Benjamin Harrison’s presidency and the Ming Dynasty. That is why it is filled with English classes where they read Shakespeare and Twain. Students often wonder why they have to take those classes and end their careers taking this GEC test. It is because we want them to know more than how to do their jobs. We want them to know about the world.

Sometimes, I fear that universities are becoming trade schools rather than bastions of higher education. Think about those words for a second. Higher education. It is great to get training to be successful in a profession. However, it is greater to be taught to think on a higher plane. That is what higher education and Liberal Arts is all about. It is about helping people to be open-minded toward ideas that are different from their own.

Open-mindedness is something that we are missing in the modern world. Heck, it may have always been missing. This makes me think about the politics of the realm in which we live. People are not willing to understand the arguments of the other side. I am not just talking about people who are conservative. I think people who have a liberal mindset are just as close-minded. Neither side is willing to concede that the other side may have some valid arguments and concerns. Let us just shut them off and yell at them.

Truly open-minded people listen to the other side. They may not agree, but, at least, they make an attempt to understand it. To me, that is what a Liberal Arts education is all about. It exposes people to different ideas and helps them understand that there things out there other than what their parents, their preachers and their teachers have told them.

It is a big world, and we need to do everything we can to understand it.

Today, I taught History to a room full of freshmen. Many of them did not seem very interested. By the time they get to the GEC Exit Exam, I hope they have realized that History, English, Philosophy, Sociology and all the other stuff were not wastes of time. They were essential to help them become something more than a job-holder. They made them an educated person.


Lights in the Sky

11 Feb

The other night my girlfriend and I were in Walgreen’s buying toiletries and such, and we made our way to the magazine rack. She bought a magazine about the lifestyles of the rich and famous, while I bought Open Minds, a publication about UFOs. I haven’t opened it up yet, so it was probably a waste of money. Actually, it was definitely a waste of money. It doesn’t matter because I wanted it at the time. The definition of impulse buying I suppose.

Like a lot of people, I have always been fascinated with UFOs. When in a bookstore, I will usually end up in the UFOs/Ghosts/Vampires aisle looking a books by Erich von Daniken and Richard Hoagland. Heck, I even made a pilgrimage to Roswell, New Mexico and the International UFO Museum and Research Center. While there, I saw this realistic display of an alien autopsy.West 2010 524

And this replication of Mayan art that is supposed to show an astronaut.West 2010 521

Is it real? I don’t know. But, it’s cool to think about. Last night, my girlfriend and I saw Zero Dark Thirty, and it was the first time I have seen Area 51 in a movie that did not involve aliens. That has nothing to do with this post, but that’s pretty cool, too.

As a UFO buff, I must admit that I have had a UFO experience. It wasn’t an encounter of the third or fourth kind, but it was an encounter. During my high school days, my buddy and I were out on the town doing things that high school kids do. The action was winding down, so I drove him home before heading to my house. As we went down the road, we noticed a light in the sky. I said something along the lines of, “What’s that?” Enlightening, I know.

“It’s probably a radio tower.”

“There’s never been a radio tower there before. Besides, they have red lights, and that one keeps changing colors.”

We watched it until we pulled into his driveway. That’s when we just stood in his front yard and stared at it.

“Maybe it’s an airplane.”

“It’s not moving.”

“Maybe it’s a helicopter.”

“Maybe, but it’s not making noise.”

At some point, we realized that we were not going to figure it out, so he went inside to get his dad. You need to understand that his dad was a prominent politician and held one of the most powerful offices in the state. This was no flunky that we were pulling out of bed to look at a UFO.

He came out bleary eyed and stared at it with us. Suddenly, a bright ray of light shot out of it toward the ground and stopped just as suddenly. It wasn’t a spotlight. It was like a laser beam. His dad never said a word. He just went to bed. After a while, my buddy went inside, too.

I drove home with the light still hovering in the distance and stood outside to watch until I couldn’t stay awake anymore. The next day, I called my friend to talk about it, but he didn’t want to talk.

“I’m not talking about it.”

“Why not?”

“Because people will think we are crazy.”

“I know what I saw, and it was a UFO.”

“No it wasn’t. There’s no such thing as aliens.”

“Who said anything about aliens? It was an object flying in the air, and we couldn’t identify it. That’s what a UFO is.”

“Whatever, I didn’t see anything.”

Three people saw an Unidentified Flying Object. One (his dad) never mentioned it again. Another (my buddy) denied seeing it. The other (me) buys a UFO magazine and hangs out in the UFO aisle at the bookstore.