Liberal education focuses on training the individual to use their own mind rather than simply regurgitating facts and specific methods as might be necessary in more technical fields. “This distinction goes back to Aristotle, who speaks of liberal, that is to say, free learning as being done for its own sake and not as a means to an end” (Brann, 2000). Rather than a rehashing of established facts and figures, a liberal education works to develop human understanding one person at a time. William Cronon (1998) identifies the liberally educated person as having numerous characteristics that can only be acquired by the kind of thoughtful dialogue and exploration this type of study can produce. According to Cronon, liberally educated people “Listen and they hear … they read and they understand … they can talk with anyone … they can write clearly and persuasively and movingly … they can solve a wide variety of puzzles and problems … they respect rigor not so much for its own sake but as a way of seeking truth … they practice humility, tolerance and self-criticism … they understand how to get things done in the world … they nurture and empower the people around them” and they make connections between these things.
The subjects that are learned through a liberal education are thus not as clearly defined as those offered in more vocational fields. “While students should certainly learn some of the fundamental arts of inquiry such as logic and linguistics in the broadest sense as well as a lot of mathematics and experimental science, … [these years should be used] for learning to be a human being” (Brann, 2000). Daniel Sullivan (2007) indicates that the subjects in which a liberal education might be pursued can lead to a wide variety of careers. These include the diplomat, the physician, the parents, the lawyers, the novelists, the manufacturers