What is the most important course in the university? Some would say that it is a
course in economics or business, since that is what most jobs, at bottom, seem to
be about. Others might want to argue that it is a course in mathematics or computer
science, since so many of the jobs in our world are becoming scientific and technological.
Still others might claim that it is a course in English composition, critical thinking, or
speech, since clear and effective communication is so essential in any job.
But the most important course at the university is none of the above. It is the
course of each student’s own life, what in Latin is called curriculum vitae. This is where
the tradition of the liberal arts puts its emphasis. The proper answer to the oft-heard
question “What can a person do with a liberal education?” is to respond that the more
appropriate question is “What can a liberal education contribute to the formation and
development of a person’s life as a whole?” A liberal education is more than a means to
obtaining and keeping a good job, as undeniably important as that is. It is intended to
equip a person to live life in all its dimensions—job, family, friends, social relations,
civic responsibility, volunteer work, avocation, recreation, and, yes, continuing and ever
deepening questioning, contemplating, and wondering—and to live it responsibly and to
the fullest as a human being. It follows, therefore, that development of moral character in
students is not an appendage, afterthought, or mere by-product of the process of liberal
education, but something that lies at its very heart. Proper development of a student’s
character can enable that student to see beyond education merely as certification and
preparation for a job to the critical importance and value of a life that is lived well in all
of its dimensions, a life that continues throughout its course to develop and sustain a
sense of purpose and fulfillment in oneself and the satisfaction of contributing
responsibly and effectively to the wellbeing of others.
The focus of a liberal education is on what the philosopher Aristotle called
eudaimonia, the flourishing of a complete human life. This flourishing includes being


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