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Securing America’s Future:

The Power of Liberal Arts Education

Matt Wuerker

Political Cartoonist, Politico
Lewis & Clark College (OR), Class of 1979
Matt Wuerker is a political cartoonist for and founding staff member of Politico and winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning. He was a finalist for the award in 2009 and 2010. He also was awarded the 2010 Herblock Prize by the Library of Congress and the 2010 Berryman Award by the National Press Foundation.
 
Wuerker has published two collections of cartoons, Standing Tall in Deep Doo Doo, A Cartoon Chronicle of the Bush Quayle Years (Thunder’s Mouth Press, 1991), and Meanwhile in Other News... A Graphic Look at Politics in the Empire of Money, Sex and Scandal (Common Courage Press, 1998). He illustrated the book The Madness of King George (Common Courage Press, 2003) by Michael K. Smith.
 
Wuerker graduated from Lewis & Clark College with a BA in 1979. While at Lewis & Clark, he served as the chief editorial cartoonist for The Pioneer Log, the weekly student newspaper.
A liberal arts education is a complete waste…squandered on the young. I was there myself, but now I’m here. And looking back with the sage wisdom that comes with my now gray beard I think the idea of sending callow young minds off to institutions that expose them to the wonders and joys of the liberal arts is just sheer lunacy. It should be against the law.
 
It’s crazy to think 17 and 18 years olds can handle it. It’s like alcohol and guns—you ought to be a certain age and even need to be licensed before they hand over the keys to something as rich as a liberal arts education. (OK, so we don’t put such restrictions on guns—that’s a different lunacy to address some other time.) But when it comes to a great liberal arts college, that should only be open to those old enough to appreciate it. I’d suggest it’s the sort of thing that should only be offered to those over 50…or maybe even 60. Coming right out of high school kids just don’t realize what a fantastic and once in a lifetime experience is being served up.

What sets a liberal arts education apart from the standard college experience is that it’s not a fixed narrow track but one that lets you find your individual path. A path that touches on so many different things that your mind gets cross-pollinated in surprising and expansive ways.

It was in hindsight the richest four years of my life, and what I’d give to find myself back there again I can’t tell you.
 
Think about the basic idea. You select a diverse group of smart people from around the country and world, a cohort with active imaginations and a love of ideas. And you put them together in one place. You then mix in groups of experienced people, experts in a multiplicity of fields of thought, to lead this group through not one but four years of study, exploration, and experimentation to enrich their minds and challenge their ideas about themselves and their world.
 
Add to this nice facilities—gyms, sports teams, swimming pools, and even group living arrangements that are conducive to staying up all night arguing philosophy, politics, whatever…and also bounteous food courts! For four years! What does all this add up to? Something that is way, way too good to be wasted on the young.
 
I for one decided to be very literal minded about the liberal arts and set out to become…a liberal artist. I studied international affairs but in the most cartoonish way possible. I was lucky enough to have wonderful professors who encouraged my fascination with this odd intersection of politics and art. I did political cartoons not just for the school paper but was indulged by a number of professors and did cartoon-term papers for a number of other classes, from Greek lit to my field biology class.
 
A liberal arts college serves up the most awesome smorgasbord of ideas and creativity…adventures and friendships you will encounter in your lifetime. And what sets it apart from the standard college experience is that it’s not a fixed narrow track but one that lets you find your individual path. A path that touches on so many different things that your mind gets cross-pollinated in surprising and expansive ways.
 
I really would give anything to go back and do it again. Squandering it on the youth…? It’s just further evidence that the world has lost its mind and is going to hell in a hand basket.
 
The Liberal Arts? The young can’t handle the Liberal Arts.
See who else studies the liberal arts.
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