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Liberal Arts curricula share with traditional programs their emphasis on core knowledge-acquisition, but tend to borrow more best practices from the progressive approach. A Liberal Arts program might still feature group work and projects, for example, contrary to the more singular emphasis on tests and essays at a traditional program.
However, whereas the progressive approach tends to prioritize instrumental knowledge—knowledge that can be “used”—Liberal Arts curricula place more emphasis on theoretical and academic learning. At the heart of the Liberal Arts approach is the premise that humans are rational beings and that cultivating the intellect is not only a sufficient goal in and of itself, but is the goal.
Liberal Arts curricula emphasize deep engagement with humanity’s loftiest and most enduring ideas (artistic, scientific, philosophical and mathematical). Attaining this cultural literacy—no matter the teaching method or pathway—is a key aim of the approach.