Subject matter knowledge-base in general and liberal education
One of the benefits of attending Albion College for certification, and Kenyon College as an undergraduate, is that I was exposed to a number of different ways of thinking about the world. A liberal arts education provides a solid foundation in the practical knowledge one needs, but it allows for exploration and connections as well. For example, I took a class at Kenyon which examined the early Christian church in the context of pagan Rome. Although some would argue the merit of such a class, it touched upon important themes such as the relationship between political systems and religion, gender roles and systems of power, and the problems that arise in a pluralistic society (1a,b,c,d,e). Although rooted in a specific historical era, the questions and ideas raised are no less relevant today. Additionally, a liberal arts education provides students with strategies to generalize and extend their thinking. Although I took a class at Albion specifically designed to foster the ability to write for a variety of purposes and audiences, I have also read existentialist philosophers, psychology research, diagrams in biology, fragments of plays by Menander, and the Tale of Kieu. My experiences with literacy in these varied contexts, as well as the practice of writing in response to these contexts, has greatly improved my ability to communicate effectively with others (1k).
This is true even within the confines of the classroom. Each student brings a set of beliefs, ideas, and values with them to school. The purpose of school is not to challenge these, but to give students the tools that allow them to think critically about their beliefs and the beliefs of others. As such, the most important rule in the classroom was respect for others. Students must feel comfortable in talking, sharing, questioning, and reflecting with their peers and with adult educators. By supporting positive risk taking, teachers can help student negotiate the multitude of beliefs, feelings, values, and points of view in the classroom, home, the community, and society (1f,h,j).