Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Opposing Views on Liberal Education

Here are two very opposed views in the ongoing debate over the value of liberal education.  The first is a report in "Inside Higher Education" about Patrick McCrory, the Governor of North Carolina, who wants to tie State funding for higher education not to "butts in seats" or even graduation rates, but to post-graduation employment. This emphasis on practical or vocational education seems to involve a depreciation of the value of the liberal arts, though one of the two specific fields mentioned in the story is "gender studies", which is not a liberal art, at least by any traditional understanding of the term (the governor also appears to criticize philosophy). The other view is an essay by Peter Augustine Lawler on The State of American Liberal Education These Days.  While sympathetic to the vocational training - after all, we live in a middle class society where everyone has to work for a living - Lawler nevertheless argues that the soul has its needs that should not be neglected.  Appealing to Tocqueville, Lawler finds pockets of liberal education in faith based institutions such as Baylor University and in  those southern colleges and universities, such as Hampden-Sydney and Morehouse, where remnants of a "noble secular humanism" are still to be found.

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