Someone should ask, “why does anyone need a Liberal Arts education, much less prison inmates?” In this article, Dr. David Crabtree, a founder and president of Gutenberg College, defines what we in the Great Books community mean when we say, “Liberal Arts.” A Liberal Arts education prepares citizens to handle liberty. Although our students and alumni face a future of parole and law enforcement officers constantly looking over their shoulders, we embrace the Liberal Arts as a way to grow into the type of people who do not need supervision in order to live right. As Crabtree points out, “[our] education is not a replacement for specialized training or education. There is clearly a need for the development of expertise, but expertise needs to be build on a foundation of a broad base of knowledge. Without this broad base of knowledge to temper their thinking, experts will consistently misdiagnose the problems they are trying to solve.” Our students and alumni’s problems can only be solved from within—which makes the ability to benefit from a liberal arts education especially important. Likewise accepts the responsibility to help its students and alumni learn how to recognize and to begin solving the problems that lead to incarceration.
We agree with Dr. Crabtree that the liberal arts education “is no panacea.” Some throughout history—most notably the leaders of the French Revolution—enjoyed the benefits of a liberal arts education. “The root problem of man,” Crabtree continues, “is his rebelliousness against God. No education can cure this. Only an act of God and a decision in the soul of each individual can cure this; education cannot. But a liberal arts education, if it is worthy of the name, prepares a person to understand the human problem and the solution that the gospel presents. In this sense, liberal arts education is, or at least should be, evangelistic.” This last point perfectly agrees with our emphasis on a Great Commission model of education. Likewise embraces the call to help its students and alumni move toward reconciliation with their Creator.
Like Dr. Crabtree, Likewise seeks to “encourage students to develop good reading, reasoning, and writing skills; . . . to work to build a sound, comprehensive, and coherent worldview; and . . . to understand what it means to be a human being who lives his life before a righteous God.” Although he addresses the historical background and present need for the liberal arts education, Dr. Crabtree comes closest to the heart of why the liberal arts still matter in his final sentence: “If we do not soon rediscover that education is about learning how to live wisely, we will have spent all of our culture’s moral capital and find ourselves in our own wasteland.” Likewise acts on behalf of those who hope to see not only a reduction in recidivism, but a renewal of the virtues that propelled Jerusalem, Athens, Rome, the Lord’s Church, the West, and—most recently—America to greatness in their youth.
We envision a profoundly positive result from taking the brightest light of a Christian Liberal Arts education into the darkest prisons; and watching the grassroots transformation that should naturally follow as students and alumni become influential points of light for their communities and families. Dr. Crabtree’s thought leadership in his article will help interested visitors better understand why Likewise maintains that a Great Books centered liberal arts education is the best means by which to stem recidivism in our time.