What if there’s no box?

Can Liberal Arts lead the way to a free thinking world?

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Sometimes , the most important ability we can have is to question if there's a box at all .

As corporate professionals a lot of merit lies on the way one answers the question – Can you think outside the box? But the underlying assumption here is the pre existing definition of a box that ironically in the process of checking one’s creative problem solving or radical thinking abilities, puts a boundary around it.

How about as students we are taught to question the idea of the box itself? That’s something liberal education can enables us to do .

Liberal education is learning the art to be and think freely, without bound by norms or facts often a virtue of technical or professional streams.

It’s Interesting to note how the core idea of ‘Why Liberal Arts’ lies in the term itself. Liberal or free thinking while a necessity is often a luxury , especially when it comes to the education one chooses to acquire.

If professional education helps us gain the necessary skill to make a living , liberal arts helps us question or understand why or if what we are doing is important and more so , how we can make it worthwhile.

Technical and professional education helps in preparing for a job or task . Liberal arts education helps deal with complexity , diversity and change that is involved in performing that task. It provides knowledge of wider world (eg science , culture , society ) and in depth study in a particular subject.

This is important in today’s chaotic times where Intelligent conversations or debates aren’t encouraged especially in politics , media or even boardroom discussions. 

Especially in business discussions , the results matter more than the process, the outcome matters more than the intent and individual gains weight higher than larger purpose. Judgement , reasoning , respect and character are side-lined by position & power .

In a typical workplace , we are focusing on transactions rather than root cause , because maybe as managers we are taught how to deal with a situation and make things happen rather than question the wrong and make changes in the way things are done .

Outside our little boxes – there are a wide range of issues that we are dealing with in India & globally . Unequal wealth , climate change , Gender Gap, falling moral values & more. There are plenty of researches that show as a generation we are more divided or polarized on every topic of larger interest than we have ever been because we lack the basic ability to listen , grasp and embrace differences of opinion or ideologies . For once this diversity of thoughts is pulling us apart than bringing us together.

We live in an age of over information but underdeveloped ability to interpret , empathise and apply this towards a purpose . We are conditioned to keep looking for the pattern that reaffirms our theories rather than challenge it.

I recently came across a term called ‘intellectual fearlessness’ . The power of mind is that It doesn’t understand the constraints of physical body or environment . The answer to most questions – in economic , social , ethical , political and cultural space lie in the judgement and ability to think about the how rather than the what , which is possible through adopting more liberal education techniques.

When the mind doesn’t understand the box – how can it help you answer if it can think inside or outside it at all?

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