Jan term upholds liberal arts ideals

Liam Pickhardt, Staff writer

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It was 6:00 a.m. I was in fourth grade. My dad woke me up to feed the family animals and get ready for school. As my dad repeatedly attempted to pull me from my deep sleep, I groggily rolled around, and refused to leave the comforts of my bed.

Eventually, I opened my eyes and looked over at my dad and quickly recognized the familiar sight of his cycling attire. Realizing what he was going to do, I begged him to let me skip school. All I wanted to do was play hooky and mountain bike with him.

Despite my begging efforts, my dad drove me to school and prepared to venture out to the trails without me. And against my wishes, I walked into school and watched him drive off.

See, at the time I felt confined by school. I disliked the idea of learning about subjects I had little to no interest in just to meet some seemingly arbitrary government quota—I am sure that my fourth grade self did not articulate it in that way. But the idea remains the same. The structure of class caused me to repeatedly move my eyes from the clock hung above the teacher’s desk to the exit door and back. I was just biding my time to go outside and ride my bike.

Unbeknownst to me at the time, I was generating my first desire to pursue a liberal arts education.

As I got older—specifically my later years of high school—I found myself most enthralled by classes that differed from the traditional “umbrella” high school classes of math, science and English.

I found that I loved finding ways to discover my creativity and go beyond the confining walls of a classroom. With that in mind, it became clear that a liberal arts education would suit me best.

And as an advocate for the liberal arts education, I quickly fell in love with the idea of a January Term at Linfield. From my perspective, I see Jan Term as the quintessential example of the liberal arts education.

During the month of January, Linfield students are given the opportunity to focus solely on one class. With class lasting only a month, it is a low-risk opportunity for students to jump out of their comfort zone and take a class that interests them even though it may not be pertinent to their major. And students should take advantage of any opportunity to explore new endeavors.

As I look back on my educational past, I see how I have grown from a student that was unable to focus on school because I knew my mountain bike was waiting to someone that genuinely enjoys class. And I attribute a lot of that change to the liberal arts curriculum and Jan Term because those two things have allowed me to break up the somewhat monotonous routine of school and learn about things I thoroughly enjoy.

I realize that taking a class over Jan Term is not exactly synonymous to pursuing one’s favorite pastime—mountain biking in my case.

But what it does perhaps offer is the chance to break up the often mundane routine of semester classes. And in that period of reprieve, it’s not uncommon for students to find new passions, new friends and new opportunities.

So, it seems obvious to me that every Linfield student should take advantage of Jan Term; the ability to explore other areas is positively uncanny and fosters intellectual growth.