Let’s face it. The liberal arts can get a bad rap. It seems like it’s easy to poke fun at liberal arts education and denigrate it in comparison to other fields, like math. But did you know math is actually part of the liberal arts?
The term “liberal arts” can mean many things in today’s education, with some curricula being more prevalent (and perceived as more useful) than others. Many people don’t realize there are “classical” liberal arts that are still being taught because they are useful, and they’ve proven their practicality since ancient times. As a soon-to-be classical liberal arts grad, I want to share what the seven classical liberal arts are and specific careers that not only benefit from them, but dare I write—require—liberal arts skills.
The Seven Classical Liberal Arts
Each art is a foundational skill that other skills build on, especially skills that use more than one art. Each skill is crucial to mastering at least one kind of job. Below, I’ll explain each liberal art briefly and give a far-from-exhaustive list of jobs that use each art.
Geometry and math are studied separately in the liberal arts because old-school geometry uses logic instead of numbers to study lines and shapes. This way, you can measure lengths correctly without a ruler, although rulers and other tools make it easier.
People who use geometry:
Mathematics has 4 basic functions —addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division— that every branch of math uses in some form or other. A kindergartener adding up apples is essentially doing the same thing as an astrophysicist calculating the speed of a moving rocket.
People who use math:
Music, in its ancient and medieval form, included more than songs and symphonies. It considered all harmonious things to be musical, so by this definition, all art is a kind of music.
People who use music:
Astronomy has never been a popular career, but it is useful even for people who don’t stargaze, because we use astronomy to measure dates and times by the positions of the sun, moon, stars, and the Earth.
People who use astronomy:
Grammar is essential for everyone so that everyone can be understood. Some jobs are unquestionably reliant on grammar.
People who use grammar:
Logic, or critical thinking, is key to problem-solving and innovation. It helps you determine if something is true or reasonable.
People who use logic:
Rhetoric is speech designed to convince people to buy, watch, believe, or vote for something. It’s the art of persuasion.
People who use rhetoric:
TV show hosts
The classical liberal arts have something for everyone. They make philosophers wiser, writers clearer, scientists smarter, and politicians more convincing (well, maybe, after all, it’s education, not magic.)
This is a four-part series written by Penelope Laird, a college intern majoring in Liberal Arts. These are her reflections on the experience she gained between her fall and spring semesters while working for me. -Heidi Scott Giusto, Ph.D.