Liberal Arts Education


There were times in the past when people discussed passionately about the importance of ‘Liberal Arts’ education.  I think this is happening again recently.  Dr. Ikujiro Nonaka, a ‘guru’ of innovation (in Japanese), is also repeatedly  preaching the importance of Liberal Arts education in innovation for these several years.

ICU  is basically a rare Liberal Arts College in Japan, and this year it launched a new ‘Liberal Arts’ course as the Summer Course in a summer camp style (students staying in campus).  Since I was interested in this, I happily accepted their invitation and spent a good 80 minutes at the seminar.  ICU has a huge green campus.  Actually, I wished to study at this very new University (established in 1953) when I was a high school student.

Liberal Arts as I understand it is a way to enable you to make rational decisions or choices in your life, at times of difficulties or confusions.  Aside from detailed discussion, basically, in general, I think it is the art of understanding the basics of humanity, regardless of the difference of cultures. I remember President Faust of Harvard University making the same sort of comments when she came to Japan last year.

As I have reported in my recent blog posting, this summer, a group of Harvard College students with some college students of Japan organize an event titled; ‘This is Liberal Arts: Summer Course 2011’, and we, IMPACT Japan, is helping them.  This course is designed for the high school students, and although the course is rather short (only for 1 week), I think this sort of independent positive actions well deserve supports, not to mention the excellence of the content the Harvard students are trying to develop.  I can see that students are pouring in much effort in building the program.  My message, as I quote below, is posted on our web site in which I describe my thoughts of the Liberal Arts education.

“The aim of the HCJI-LAB Liberal Arts Program is to provide a model for life-long learning, for engaging society in meaningful ways, and for making a difference in the world. Liberal arts education draws on the rich histories of human wisdom common to all cultures, as evidenced by a nation’s philosophical, religious, scientific and social traditions. What are the values that shape the decisions we make, and what new skills are needed to respond to the challenges of rapid technological and social change in an increasingly interconnected world? By emphasizing critical thinking, freedom of expression and experimentation, students will learn to make decisions that positively impact society and to develop meaningful ways of working in a globally connected marketplace. A liberal arts education prepares students for the leadership roles that will shape future generations.”

Higher education of a speciality or two could not meet the need of nurturing future leaders.