Michael Drout: The Liberal Arts Come First

DroutMichaelThe medievalist Michael Drout, Prentice Professor of English and Former Chair of the Department of English at Wheaton College, came to Benedictine College recently to talk with students and faculty about the importance of the liberal arts, and about the necessary cooperation of the liberal arts with the sciences. Here are our top quotes from the evening:

1.  “I predict a glorious future for the liberal arts, and I propose that that future will happen in convergence with the sciences.”

2.  “In classical education, there was the triuvium, which was the three core areas of grammar, rhetoric, and logic, and there was the quadrivium, which was arithmetic, geometry, astronomy – which today would be more like what we call astrology, it was the study of the stars to predict the future – and music. You needed both the trivium and the quadrivium in the Roman Empire. They were necessary to understand themselves and to govern.”

3.  “The liberal arts show you’re smart – you work hard, you’re dedicated.”

4.  “For the last 2000 years, the richest and most powerful people have chosen to educate their children in the liberal arts. Don’t look at what they say, look at what they do.”CatholicLeadersLogo

5.  “Theology and philosophy got to keep the metaphysics, and everything else got put over with the sciences.”

6.  “Sometimes etymology is just cool, in this case I think it’s actually right: The word ‘science’ comes from an Indo-European word which means to split or divide.”

7.  “We [in the liberal arts] care about the tradition as a tradition, rather than to say, ‘This is where we’ve been and now we’re on the pinnacle.’ As the sciences do. And I’ve very envious of the sciences for that. But there’s a reason we have the tradition. With the liberal arts you tend to take one step forward and two steps back on the path. In science you go forward and say, ‘Alright, we have concrete, measurable results, we don’t need the path anymore.’”

8.  “Our ancestors, I think, had higher IQs than we do. They weren’t distracted by little glowing screens. How much do you think we’re smarter than our ancestors, versus standing on their shoulders so we can see farther?”

The Gregorian Institute is Benedictine College’s initiative to promote Catholic identity in public life by equipping leaders (the Gregorian speech digest), training leaders (the Gregorian Fellows), defending the faith (the Memorare Army for Religious Freedom), and celebrating Catholic identity (the Catholic Hall of Fame).

Eileen Wittig