The liberal arts (Latin: artes liberales) are those subjects or skills that in classical antiquity were considered essential for a free person (a citizen) to know in order to take an active part in civic life. In Ancient Greece this included participating in public debate, defending oneself in court, serving on juries, and most importantly, military service (slaves and resident aliens were by definition excluded from the duties and responsibilities of citizenship). The aim of these studies was to produce a virtuous, knowledgeable, and articulate person. Grammar, rhetoric, and logic were the core liberal arts. During medieval times, when learning came under the purview of the Church, these subjects (called the Trivium) were extended to include arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy (which included the study of astrology). This extended curriculum was called the Quadrivium. Together the Trivium and Quadrivium constituted the seven liberal arts of the medieval university curriculum. In the Renaissance, the Italian humanists, who in many respects continued the grammatical and rhetorical traditions of the Middle Ages, rechristened the old Trivium with a new and more ambitious name: Studia humanitatis, and also increased its scope. They excluded logic and added to the traditional Latin grammar and rhetoric not only history, Greek, and moral philosophy (ethics), but made poetry, once a sequel of grammar and rhetoric, the most important member of the whole group. The educational curriculum of humanism spread throughout Europe during the sixteenth century and became the educational foundation for the schooling of European elites, the functionaries of political administration, the clergy of the various legally recognized churches, and the learned professions of law and medicine. The ideal of a liberal arts, or humanistic education grounded in classical languages and literature, persisted until the middle of the twentieth century.
In modern times liberal arts education is a term which can be interpreted in different ways. It can refer to certain areas of literature, languages, philosophy, history, mathematics, psychology, and science. It can also refer to studies on a liberal arts degree program. For example, Harvard University offers a Master of Liberal Arts degree, which covers biological and social sciences as well as the humanities. For both interpretations, the term generally refers to matters not relating to the professional, vocational, or technical curricula.
In classical antiquity, the "liberal arts" denoted those subjects of study that were considered essential for a free person (Latin: liber, "free") to master in order to acquire those qualities that distinguished a free person from slaves - the latter of whom formed the greater number of the population in the classical world. Contrary to popular belief, freeborn girls were as likely to receive formal education as boys, especially during the Roman Empire—unlike the lack of education, or purely manual/technical skills, proper to a slave. The "liberal arts" or "liberal pursuits" (Latin liberalia studia) were already so called in formal education during the Roman Empire; for example, Seneca the Younger discusses liberal arts in education from a critical Stoic point of view in Moral Epistle 88. The subjects that would become the standard "Liberal Arts" in Roman and Medieval times already comprised the basic curriculum in the enkuklios paideia or "education in a circle" of late Classical and Hellenistic Greece.
In the 5th century AD, Martianus Capella defined the seven Liberal Arts as: grammar, dialectic, rhetoric, arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy. In the medieval Western university, the seven liberal arts were divided in two parts:
Mathematics, science, arts, and language can all be considered part of the liberal arts. Some subsections of the liberal arts are trivium—the verbal arts: logic, grammar, and rhetoric; and quadrivium—the numerical arts: arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy. Analyzing and interpreting information is also studied.
Academic areas that can be associated with the term liberal arts include:
The liberal arts education prepares the student for higher education at a university. They are thus meant for the more academically minded students, who are sifted out at about the age of 10–13. In addition to the usual curriculum, students of a liberal arts education often study Latin and Ancient Greek.
Some liberal arts education provide general education, others have a specific focus. (This also differs from country to country.) The four traditional branches are:
Curricula differ from school to school, but generally include language, mathematics, informatics, physics, chemistry, biology, geography, art (as well as crafts and design), music, history, philosophy, civics / citizenship, social sciences, and several foreign languages.
Schools concentrate not only on academic subjects, but on producing well-rounded individuals, so physical education and religion or ethics are compulsory, even in non-denominational schools which are prevalent. For example, the German constitution guarantees the separation of church and state, so although religion or ethics classes are compulsory, students may choose to study a specific religion or none at all.
Today, a number of other areas of specialization exist, such as gymnasiums specializing in economics, technology or domestic sciences. In some countries, there is a notion of progymnasium, which is equivalent to beginning classes of the full gymnasium, with the rights to continue education in a gymnasium. Here, the prefix "pro" indicates that this curriculum precedes normal gymnasium studies.
In the United States, liberal arts colleges are schools emphasizing undergraduate study in the liberal arts. Traditionally earned over four years of full-time study some universities such as Saint Leo University, Pennsylvania State University, Florida Institute of Technology and New England College have begun to offer an associate degree in liberal arts , most students earn either[dubious ] a Bachelor of Arts degree or a Bachelor of Science[original research?] degree; on completing undergraduate study, students might progress to either a graduate school or a professional school (public administration, engineering, business, law, medicine, theology). The teaching is Socratic, typically with small classes, and often boasts[weasel words] a lower student-to-teacher ratio than at large universities; professors teaching classes are allowed to concentrate more on their teaching responsibilities than primary research professors or graduate student teaching assistants, in contrast to the instruction common in universities.[original research?]
Despite the European origin of the liberal arts college, the term liberal arts college usually denotes liberal arts colleges in the United States. Only recently, some efforts have been undertaken to "re-import" liberal arts education to continental Europe, as with Leiden University College The Hague, University College Utrecht, University College Maastricht, Amsterdam University College, Roosevelt Academy (now University College Roosevelt), Bratislava International School of Liberal Arts, and the European College of Liberal Arts. As well as the colleges listed above, some universities in the Netherlands offer bachelors programs in Liberal Arts and Sciences (Tilburg University), as will King's College London and University College London in the United Kingdom from 2012. It is the curriculum of Forman Christian College in Lahore, Pakistan for Bachelors, the only institute in the country which offers this program.
Liberal arts (as a degree program) is just beginning to establish itself in Europe. For example, University College Dublin offers the degree, one of the few universities in Europe which does. In the Netherlands, universities have opened constituent liberal arts colleges under the terminology university college since the late 1990s. It has been suggested that the liberal arts degree may become part of mainstream education provision in the United Kingdom, Ireland and other European countries. In 1999, the European College of Liberal Arts (now ECLA of Bard) was founded in Berlin  and in 2009 it introduced a 4-year Bachelor of Arts program in Value Studies taught in English, leading to an interdisciplinary degree in the humanities. In 2010 the University of Winchester introduced its Modern Liberal Arts undergraduate program, the first of its kind in the UK. In 2012, University College London will begin its interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences BASc degree (which has kinship with the liberal arts model) with 80 students along with the London New College of the Humanities. The four-year Bachelor’s Degree in Liberal Arts and Sciences at University College Freiburg is the first of its kind in Germany. It started in October 2012 with 78 students. The first Liberal Arts degree program in Sweden was established at Gothenburg University in 2011, followed by a Liberal Arts Bachelor Programme at Uppsala University's Campus Gotland in the autumn of 2013. The first Liberal Arts program in Georgia was introduced in 2005 by American-Georgian Initiative for Liberal Education (AGILE), an NGO. In collaboration with AGILE, Ilia State University became the first higher education institution in Georgia to establish a liberal arts program.
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