The liberal arts and humanities college is a value frame or a particular ideal of education. It emphasizes the teacher as an exemplar. Performativity and commitment become important. A teacher becomes a legend who creates the folklore of liberal arts. The student is not a passive creature. She is a creator and inventor of a new self or a renewed self. She is a seeker, explorer and the syllabus becomes a map of possibilities. In a Deleuzian sense, liberal arts are not about tracing. Mapping is an act of reinvention; one explores, invents and rediscovers a territory. Pedagogy becomes crucial because it is the act of teaching that is the eventual educational act, a drama unfolding everyday around a canonical text, an invitation to re-reading, as an unfolding invention.
There is also the dream of democracy. Liberal arts and humanities provide the syllabus for a democratic way of life. It is here that cosmos, a community, a constitution and a syllabus can all integrate into a four-fold way of life we can call democratic. The ideas of a cosmos invokes world views anchored in religions and civilizations, creating a relation between man, nature and god, creating a multiverse of meanings, where old dichotomies between politics and religions, science and religion are re-explored. A cosmos needs a community or a neighborhood of communities to embed it and embrace it. A community needs a history, a story teller and an ethics of memory which becomes the basis of an ethics of caring. Liberal arts and humanities is fundamentally about responsibility, leadership and judgment, the creativity of standing up for something.
Cosmos and community require a constitution, a value frame of laws to anchor it. A constitution is not only a founding document but one of the great texts demanding a ritual of interpretation. A community of liberal arts links there three domains into a syllabus. A syllabus is a promissory note, a vision document, a cognitive constitution for the academe. It is a dovetailing of these four ideas or entities that produces the world of a liberal arts and humanities college.
Liberal Arts is about citizenship building, much more than consumerism or voter's choice. The citizen is a person of knowledge exploring the intricacies of choice, the nature of alternative imaginations. Ethics, aesthetics, politics become essential to the act of engagement. A perspective in liberal arts creates the humus for judgment. While emphasizing the life of a book, the college opens out to the book of life, creating the citizen scholar as the basis of democracy. It is in this context that citizenship, civility and civitas become ideals of a democratic society.
Liberal arts and humanities provide both the table manners and the customs and the frames of justice of a democratic society. The concept of liberal arts encompasses the public/private distinction. Liberal arts cannot provide for a private aesthetics, or the individual choices of an authoritarian society. It has to enter, frame and question the public domain. This act of interrogating the public domain calls for a pro-active notion of citizenship and leadership.