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Liberal Arts Tradition

The Honors Program at Marymount University reflects the principles of the original liberal arts, artes liberales, literally “the subjects of study proper to free persons.” This method of education, developed in the first universities of Western Europe, attempted to free the minds of young people from ignorance so that they could pursue the Truth in a chosen discipline.

These medieval universities – especially the University of Paris, the University of Oxford, and the University of Cambridge – were founded upon an intimate and intense intellectual relationship that exists between the professor, or magister, and the student, a relationship akin to the apprenticeship that existed in the craft guilds in medieval towns. Each student would learn their “craft” – Theology, Philosophy, Law, and Medicine were particularly prominent – under the tutelage of a Master, who required their pupil to produce a written “masterpiece” (i.e., a thesis) in order to be admitted into the “guild” (i.e., become a practicing teacher, lawyer, doctor, etc.).

Instruction consisted of

  • tutorials – one professor with one to three students
  • seminars – small classes in which discussion and Socratic methods dominated
  • lectures – for larger classes

A student must master the trivium (grammar, logic/dialectic, and rhetoric) before the student could advance to the quadrivium (the disciplines). Each student was also required to give an oral defense of their thesis in order to proceed to the degree.

The curriculum of Marymount’s Honors Program follows this tradition. Learn more about the Honors Curriculum.