Yoder again, more on education:
Many contemporary discussions of the meaning of liberal arts read into this phrase numerous most edifying descriptions of what it means that the Christian is “truly free” or how the study of classical literature “liberates” one. Only a few have the honesty to admit that the historic derivation of the term is quite different one. The “liberal arts” were originally those arts in which the leisure class of society could afford to indulge. Their first value was that they provided the kind of non-utilitarian occupation with which it was seemly for persons of their class to be busied. A second value was that they could thus actually preserve and propagate a classical humanistic heritage for which there was at the time not much other use. Further, the structure of their society being what it was, this training was for them utilitarian in that it prepared them to continue to be the kind of social elite that their parents were. . . .
This general bourgeois cultural reflex takes on a new dimension when it is argued that it is specifically Christians who for “religious” or “character building” reasons should be concerned especially for the liberal arts. For a surprising number of interpreters, the case for a Christian college is identical with the case for a liberal arts college (and usually with the case for a small college). Such things as “perspective” or “cultural breadth and depth” are assumed to be more faithful reflections of religious concern than merely learning to be useful.
~ John Howard Yoder, “A Syllabus of Issues Facing the Church” in Concern for Education, Forthcoming from Cascade Books.