The Truth Told Slant: Emily Dickinson And A Defense Of A Liberal Arts Education
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The value of a liberal arts education is relentlessly debated, especially in the 21st century where STEM and business are growing increasingly important to the job market. Because many people are deeming a liberal arts education less valuable than the aforementioned vocational fields, both funding for and enrollment in the liberal arts has declined consistently over the past 50 years. This thesis is a defense of the liberal arts education that reveals its value by looking at the foundation of the University of Texas at Austin (UT) through the lens of Emily Dickinson’s poetry. The question this paper explores is what is the true value of a liberal arts education? And how does studying a liberal arts subject like poetry, which is often considered frivolous and irrelevant to the “real world,” give students the type of education that UT strives to give them? Beginning by exploring UT’s foundation, mission, and values, this thesis reveals that the liberal arts are the core of the University of Texas at Austin. It then discusses the power of poetry and the poet Emily Dickinson, and chapters 2-6 each delve into various themes that are present both in the foundation of UT as well as in Dickinson’s poems. The analyses of various Dickinson poems included in these chapters reveal how studying the liberal arts gives students an “education for a life, not just a living,” and the entirety of this thesis shows how a liberal arts education equips students to truly make a difference in the world, as UT’s motto promises.