The Liberal Arts: Their Rightful and Relevant Place in Education
Drew Stephens

Drew Stephens, Head of SchoolAt Southridge we move well beyond developing productive workers, and we don't limit ourselves to preparing children for specific careers pathways or post-secondary programs. We are focused on cultivating engaged citizens who make a difference in the world by exposing our students to multiple thinking frameworks across a spectrum of academic/artistic disciplines that teach them how to adapt confidently, reason intelligently, argue effectively, judge fairly and communicate clearly.

On a daily basis, we have high expectations for our students to be noticeably engaged in their own learning as they actively construct knowledge. All of our teachers strive to design their courses and learning experiences to challenge our students in the ways they think. To be clear, we do not believe thinking simply involves the memorization of facts, or the ability to plug new data into familiar algorithms and/or recognizable formulas. Formulaic thinking has its place and it may provide comfort for leaners, but in our dynamic and ever-changing world it's prescribed approach and mechanical nature simply will not serve people who strive to make a difference. Indeed, methodic and systemic thinking is more prone to have the exact opposite effect because it tends to be uninspired and commonplace.

Not so at Southridge where we strive to present relevant and frequent opportunities for our students to think more critically, more creatively and more conceptually than ever before. To do so, we pay close attention to the details surrounding the kinds of higher level analytical questions we ask our students to grapple with and discuss. While we certainly expect our students to recall facts and explain ideas or concepts, we also expect them to use information in new situations, draw connections among ideas, justify a position or decision and produce original work.

To be sure, our students are faced with the demand of work that calls on them to draw connections from different perspectives or dissimilar ways of looking at the world. To do so through a single lens of experience by virtue of concentration in a certain subject discipline is limiting, and that is why Southridge embraces a Kindergarten to Grade 12 liberal arts education inclusive of required courses beyond Ministry of Education requirements in the humanities, the arts, the sciences and math.

While our school recognizes the need to prepare our students for specific post-secondary programs, we are, in reality, even more driven by the mission we have as a community. To educate people who make a difference in the world requires expectations that press against the inherent limitations of preparing children for specific careers pathways or post-secondary programs that often have narrow sets of required courses for entry.

When we rise above the focus on becoming a "fill-in-career-choice-here" and recognize how a liberal arts education helps our children learn how to reason intelligently, argue effectively, judge fairly and communicate clearly it becomes evident how they – and the world – will be the better for it.

Have a wonderful week!

Drew Stephens
Head of School

Liberal Arts Word Mash-up