The essence of studia humanitatis is akin to that of the Renaissance in general. The beginning of studies in the humane arts was in many ways a new birth of education, thinking and social structure, but it was also a rebirth of the lost enlightenment of antiquity. The idea was to educate from classical works, which were much lost in the Dark Ages, but also to educate in a way never before seen or attempted.
The combination of physical and mental pursuits created an individual who develops those highest gifts of body and of mind (Woodward, Vittorino de Feltre, pg. 02 Rice, Grafton, pg. 105) The general curriculum of liberal studies (liberal as they were worthy of a free man) were rooted in history, ethics, and literature. From these three disciplines countless avenues of thought could be explored. It was a logical foundation as ethics describe the individuals relation to worldly standings, history shows the application of ethics, and literature (mostly Greek and Latin) give an elegant framework for thought and expression.
Other areas of education were, of course, undertaken. It was believed that physical training was an important element in the growth of an individual. Every aspect of human potentiality was pursued. Medieval educators thought it wrong to include physical education and refinement into the curriculum as they were uncertain of the body and its workings. This changed with the growth of knowledge in the human form and composition. Still it was arguable as to what extent physical growth should be pursued.
In England there was belief that athletics were of no interest to a gentleman, as they promoted violence and disfigured the human build. The Italians believed that the opposite. They believed that these physical pursuits such as sports gave the player better habits which one could keep the body fit. The liberal education became a necessary instrument for all, not just the elite. Where the beginning of the humanities didnt deal directly with common society, the mass appeal was soon to come.
The merchant class became a large portion of enrollment in academies beginning with St. Pauls School in 1509. Liberal education was a way to raise the social standing of an individual. It was thought that one should no longer be able to acquire a position by birth alone. This concept had a large effect on societal norms. Though the notion of birthright could not be dispelled from the minds of nobility, a structured education became expected of anyone who would retain a high-standing position.
The idea that a new form of education made a human being more fully and perfectly a man (Rice, Grafton, pg. 107) was a major step in the evolution of humans quest for knowledge and betterment. The liberal education remains to be a well-rounded curriculum with which to build a foundation for growth in many directions. From art and architecture to formal studies of history and literature to physical education and athletics, liberal studies gave and continue to give students an outlook that lets them achieve more diverse and individual goals.