Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Defining a well rounded education

This article written by Carrie Weitz about well-rounded education is
published on

Other links for articles by other writers are also added in the above site.

After reading these valuable articles, we can evaluate our current system of education with a special focus on the ultimate objectives of the 2002 Education Act and Education Reform. Let's see where we are...


A well-rounded education is the pursuit of comprehensive knowledge, balanced across a wide range of subjects. With the purpose of education being to prepare students to become competent, contributing citizens, the broad content of a well-rounded education expands future options, professionally, socially, and personally. Liberal Arts and Classical Education are considered well-rounded studies designed to develop intellectual growth, versus studying for a specific skill or profession.

The current system favors deferring well-rounded studies to higher education, while focusing on a limited number of skills in elementary and high schools. This works contrary to the goals of Liberal Arts, which aim to provide a foundation on which to build specialized knowledge. When the grammar stage has been spent gathering facts, the logic stage spent organizing and testing those facts, and the rhetoric stage has mastered communicating facts, a student gains the tools to learn anything. On the other hand, a student taught to memorize and drill from age five to eighteen has been trained to store knowledge with little need to process or explore further.

Lifelong habits are difficult to break, and the principles of a well-rounded education become harder to grasp. When Classical methods are reserved for those over 18, the developmental stages most suited to this molding are missed. After high school, few students find themselves able, even if willing, to pursue general studies.

According to the US Census Bureau, 53.9% of Americans over the age of 24 have received any college education, and only 27% finish with a Bachelor's degree or higher. The National Association of Colleges and Employers counts 24% of undergraduate degrees as Liberal Arts program completion, or less than 7% of the US population. The expense and competition of higher education prevents most undergraduates from broadening scope and sequence. They find themselves focusing intensely on completing a relatively narrow course schedule designed for specific career and financial goals. General electives are often seen as classes to "get through" in order to meet degree credit requirements.

Despite the growing opportunities for potential degree holders, Liberal Arts studies still carry a stigma. As we continue to specialize, compartmentalize, and hone in on specific skills, we come to devalue knowledge in most other areas, believing they have no relevance to our purpose. When we lose sight of the impact a well-rounded education

has on our lives and on society as a whole, our capabilities are weakened, even within our specialty.

There is no career, no hobby, no community that would not benefit from broader knowledge. A highly specialized medical professional will always be working with patients of varied experiences and expectations. A person who enjoys camping will always meet new environmental and physical challenges. A community will always change in numbers, make up, and need. With a solid, well-rounded education, people have the tools to face a new situation and understand how to approach problems effectively.

Literacy, mathematics, and specific skill sets in chosen subjects remain important factors in success. Understanding the hows and whys of these topics increases potential. True knowledge of how history, science, psychology, sociology, economics, technology, philosophy, art, literature, languages and civics impact all that we study, all that we live, provides the opportunity to expand skill mastery into success in all aspects of life.

Today, the most common resources for well-rounded K-12 education are found in a limited number of private schools, often Christian-based, even fewer charter and magnet schools, and through homeschooling or supplemental home studies. A parent who values the principles of the grammar/logic/rhetoric Trivium is unlikely to find this method being used in a traditional high school and even less likely to find it in a traditional primary school. With the public school focus on basic math and reading, the desire to seek global learning is a family responsibility.

Those interested in learning more about the history and benefits of Classical teaching can visit for a Christian view and for a more secular perspective. Both sites share information and resources for guiding the well-rounded education of homeschool students as well as that of traditional students.

For adults eager to learn how to effectively self-educate, Susan Wise Bauer has written The Well-Educated Mind: A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had. Through each of the five genres of writing, The Well-Educated Mind shares the keys to analysing and comprehending all forms of the written word, making knowledge in any subject accessible.

Skill-focused education teaches a skill. Well-rounded education teaches the art of learning. "The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn." -Alvin Toffler