Last of the Westland Whigs

In the late 17th century, the 'Westland Whigs' were the radical descendants of earlier Covenanters who had defied the absolutist rule of Stuart kings in south west Scotland.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Liberal Arts letter to D and G Standard

Dear Sir,
in 2009 I became a Master of Philosophy after studying at Glasgow University’s Crichton Campus. I was only able to complete my studies after a powerful campaign, supported by the Standard, persuaded Glasgow University to stay in Dumfries. Thanks to the success of the campaign, my daughter and son were able to become Liberal Arts students at the campus in 2009. Now (Standard 27 May) the spectre of closure has returned.

In 2007, when the first threat of closure was made, I looked into the background arguments for closure. These boiled down to the belief that the economy of Dumfries and Galloway was not ‘developed’ enough to absorb the output of graduates from the Glasgow University campus. This same argument, now focused on the Liberal Arts (history, philosophy and literature), is still in play.

Yet through the Liberal Arts, students learn the key sills of critical thought and analysis. These skills are as vital in Dumfries and Galloway as they are anywhere else. Surveying his ‘modern age’ from Craigenputtock farm in Nithsdale in 1829, Thomas Carlyle described it as the Mechanical Age, the age of steam power and the industrial revolution. Our age is the Information Age, an age in which we are deluged with ‘information’, as instantly available in the most remote rural location as in the heart of the largest city.

In this age of information, the ability to critically assess and analyse the value of information sources and transform them into useful knowledge is an absolutely vital and practical skill. The economy of Dumfries and Galloway may be ‘underdeveloped’, so that Liberal Arts graduates will find jobs in family businesses or through self- employment, but it is precisely in such small scale enterprises, which are the bedrock of the regional economy, that such skills are the most essential.

The Liberal Arts are an essential resource for the future of our region, a resource we cannot afford to lose.

Alistair Livingston


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