Clearly Ruskin Wouldn’t Have Had Trouble Defending a Liberal Arts Education

Taste is not only a part and an index of morality; — it is the only morality. The first, and last, and closest trial question to any living creature is, ‘What do you like?’ Tell me what you like, and I’ll tell you what you are. . . . ‘Nay,’ perhaps you answer; ‘we need rather to ask what these people and children do, than what they like. . . .’ But they only are in a right moral state when they have come to like doing it; and as long as they don’t like it, they are still in a vicious state. The man is not in health of body who is always thinking of the bottle in the cupboard, though he bravely bears his thirst . . . . And the entire object of true education is to make people not merely do the right things, but enjoy the right things: — not merely industrious, but to love industry — not merely learned, but to love knowledge — not merely pure, but to love purity — not merely just, but to hunger and thirst after justice. . . . What we like determines what we are, and is the sign of what we are; and to teach taste is inevitably to form character. . . . [A] nation cannot be affected by any vice, or weakness, without expressing it, legibly, and for ever, either in bad art, or by want of art; and that there is no national virtue, small or great, which is not manifestly expressed in all the art which circumstances enable the people possessing that virtue to produce.

John Ruskin, Unto this Last, and Other Writings 234-235 (Clive Wilmer, ed. Penguin Classics 2005) (1862).