top of page

Warming up for Debate Night

September 26, 2009

by Nathan Bengtsson
Warming up for Debate Night

Monday night fight night baby!  Forget Madison Square Garden, on September 28, the Forum is hosting Debate Night at the Ath, and it’s going to be big.  Debaters include Dan Evans, Ilan Wurman, Aditya Pai Dhungat, and Charlie Sprague – with a line up like that, you’d better not walk in without your gloves on; if you thought your dorm damages were bad before, wait ‘till you get the bill for having your blood steam-cleaned out of the Ath carpet.  So with a mind to making sure no one gets sucker punched, let’s do a little warm up before this rhetorical rumble gets started.Let’s  do the basics.  The topic: Is CMC a true liberal arts college?  Before we come out swinging, it’s probably a good idea to discuss for a minute what exactly a liberal arts college is.

If there were completely rigid criteria for defining what is or is not a liberal arts college, obviously this debate would be much less exciting.  Despite how nebulous the term can be, there are at least three criteria which are essential in determining that an institution of higher learning is in fact a liberal arts college.

The first is that the school should be relatively small, and its students share a strong sense of community.  In this sense, the liberal arts school is clearly distinctive from the massive research-university model.  The second element that distinguishes between the liberal arts and university models is the emphasis on faculty as teachers as opposed to researchers.  Professors at liberal arts colleges spend more time focusing on students and develop stronger relationships with students.  And the third is that a liberal arts college focuses on the development of general knowledge and the refinement of intellectual ability via a broad spectrum of learning.

What does this broad spectrum consist of?  In other words, what exactly are “liberal arts”?  The liberal arts themselves are steeped in a truly ancient tradition, as evidenced by the Socratic teaching method often utilized at liberal arts school, a direct connection with antiquity.  In the interest of avoiding a comprehensive history lesson, let us suffice it to say that today the term “liberal arts” typically includes literature, language, philosophy, history, mathematics, and science.

Alright, now that the homework is done, I’m going to get this party started with a little Mike Tyson-style fight trash talk.

Guess what.  CMC is NOT a liberal arts school.  And there are many reasons this is true, but the most obvious one is this:   The pre-professional atmosphere of CMC is overwhelming.

When was the last time you talked to a CMC music or art history major?  What are the names of CMC’s visual art professors?  There are major elements of the liberal arts that are neglected at CMC, which is not surprising if one understands the nature of the school.  The About CMC webpage offers us a clear look at the essence of the institution as defined by the powers that be.  Although the page does mention the school’s “strong grounding in the liberal arts,” it also very clearly emphasizes the school’s focus on “economics, government, and public affairs.” Additional emphasis highlights the school’s well known pragmatic approach to education.  Pragmatism is not necessarily antithetical to the idea of the liberal arts; however, the emphases on practical education and on the areas of economics, government, etc. lend a strongly pre-professionals sensibility to the college’s apparent mission.  If that does not convince you, let the money talk; the $200 million dollars of Robert Day’s money is screaming out loud that CMC is an econ training ground! CMC is a de facto econ and public policy specialty school, period.

There’s a running start folks, and you can count on a lot more hot fire than this tidbit being spat next week at the Ath.  Remember, we rumble on Monday, September 28.  Sign up here, and we’ll see you there.

bottom of page