Saturday, April 6, 2024

A Trivia Question


As I lay dozing, in the dream-time between letting Jenny out at seven and getting up and on with the day at eight, once more an array of random thoughts and questions swirled through my half-awake mind. Trivia. Lots of trivia.

Trivia, I mused. From the Latin--three roads. And it was the name of a curriculum in ancient times-the study of three things. But what were those things? Geometry, I think, and what? and wasn't there also a quadrivium--studying four things? Oh, dear, I'm going to have to get up and ask Mr. Google.

What a pleasure to have the answers so available. Mr. Google and Wikipedia tell me that the Trivium (the study of grammar, logic, and rhetoric) was the first order of study, laying the groundwork for the Quadrivium (arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy.) 

Together they comprise the Seven Liberal Arts--thinking studies as opposed to practical studies like medicine or architecture. It's a fascinating article HERE.

A few years ago, a fellow writer who was part of the English Department at one of the NC state schools, told me that they had had only one (1!) student declare English as a major that semester.

I was aghast. I so enjoyed all my English courses as I worked on my BA and then my MA. The only major that sounded more enticing to me at the time was Art and I didn't feel confident in my abilities there. English was fun --reading and writing came easily. And when I graduated, I could teach. Or maybe even write. Plus, all that trivia I was absorbing has given me plenty to think about for the past sixty years. 

But these days, it seems, all the liberal arts courses are going begging as harsh reality, astronomical college tuitions, and student loans necessitate a well-paying job on graduation.

There is much to be said for a practical education, from engineering, computer science, medicine, to plumbing, car repair, horticulture, and the like. Where would we be without physicians and car mechanics?

And what is the role of the liberal arts in today's world? Beyond providing trivial fodder for pub games, FB quizzes, and the wittering on of an old English major. I know that my life is enriched by what I learned, but is that enough justification?

What do you think?




Barbara Rogers said...

I'm totally in favor of Liberal Arts well as more career oriented tracts. Thanks so much for the short history/trivia lesson. I wonder how many liberal-identified voters had liberal arts of hands please? Being able to think in many aspects of life, to consider English, Art, Music, Philosophy, Languages, Teaching, and all the other topics that LA covers is a great gift for young people. I'm glad that today I don't have to make the decisions newly graduated youth face when choosing their college paths!

Anvilcloud said...

I almost wish that I had chosen English as my major. As it was, it wasn't even I proper minor. Maybe I will post about this.

Sandra Parshall said...

I saw a report a couple days ago about the staggering number of young people who are opting for vocational training instead of expensive four-year college that might not end in a job. I think that's a good thing, because it guarantees that more of them will be employed in professions that will always be in demand. Of course they miss the advantages of a broader education, but those advantages may be less meaningful than they've ever been in today's world.

Libby said...

I don't comment on here but I feel compelled. Interesting post and I have read yours for as long as I can remember. I did horribly in college in a major that had no future and I dropped out. I was great in math and science. English and history awful. I left a tiny town in Indiana in 1965 and roamed around. I have had 38 jobs. I was an Art Director in NYC for awhile. I have never had any money probably because that was not my goal.
Now that I have time to think about so much, I am amazed at how much I have packed into those years and although I didn't do anything remarkable I feel happy and fulfilled. So... do we put too much merit on salary and performing as expected, vs. following our heart?
I like that you asked what we think. I sometimes post that way and hardly get any respons

Vicki Lane said...

I so appreciate the responses--there are more good ones on Facebook where I also post this blog.

Libby--I think that happy and fulfilled is the best goal. Certainly college isn't necessary. I just was fortunate that my family expected me to go and paid for it and I turned out to really love it. And then I enjoyed teaching English--though I have a real feeling I wouldn't like it these days, what with right-wingers scrutinizing every book choice.

Both my boys were liberal arts majors--the older has put his English degree to good use, developing role-playing games for years and now writing copy for the insurance industry. The younger, Phi Bete Kappa with a degree in philosophy, is a carpenter and very happy in his work. Both have achieved the fulfilled and happy goal! And both are life-long readers and learners.