Liberal Education

Reimagining the Meanings of Service on the Streets of Detroit

A few months ago, I found myself at a local haunt in southwest Detroit, a coffeehouse on the corner of Vernor and Scotten. I had ducked in to grab a café con leche before my regular meeting with community partners to discuss the future of a joint project: El Museo del Norte, a museum and cultural center focused on Latino life in the Midwest. As I was leaving the coffeehouse, I ran into an acquaintance from Wayne State University.

Evaluating the Humanities

How can one measure the value of teaching the humanities? The problem of assessment and accountability is prominent today, of course, in secondary and higher education. It is perhaps even more acute for those who teach the humanities in nontraditional settings, such as medical and other professional schools. The public assumes that we can assess the difference between good, indifferent, and bad physicians— otherwise, why would students and faculty members spend so much time obsessing over licensing exams?

No Child Left Behind Goes to College

One of the least discussed legacies of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) on American education has been its spillover effect in higher education. Students educated under NCLB become the walking zombies of intensified testing and continuous assessment in their high schools, where most of the joys of inquiry and learning have been eliminated from the curriculum. As they have graduated and moved on to college, they have become the targets of similar strategies to remake public universities.

A Liberal Arts Perspective on Engaged Executive Education

The relationship between the academy and business is marked by an odd mixture of tension and potential. Historically, the first attempt to integrate the two occurred at the University of Pennsylvania in 1881, when prominent steelmaker Joseph Wharton donated $100,000 to fund the Wharton School of Finance and the Economy. Tensions surfaced from the start. Many professors thought the needs of business were disconnected from the typical liberal arts curriculum that undergirds the arts and sciences.

Critical Thinking and the Liberal Arts

Warnings about the decline of the liberal arts are ubiquitous these days, but they are hardly new. Jacques Barzun, the renowned scholar and dean at Columbia University, pronounced the liberal arts tradition “dead or dying” in 1963. Barzun may have spoken too soon, but by various measures, liberal learning is worse off today than it was then. Liberal arts colleges seem an endangered species as curricula shift toward science, technology, engineering, and math—the STEM disciplines. Students want jobs, not debt, and who can blame them?

Liberal Arts in the Modern University

Everything that lives, lives not alone, nor for itself. —William Blake

These words epitomize the sense of interconnectedness reaped from a liberal arts education. Blake’s profound awareness of and respect for all forms of life—his “deep ecology,” as Blake scholar Mark S. Lussier describes it—is meaningful as we consider the value of the liberal arts curriculum.

Teaching in the Corporate University: Assessment as a Labor Issue

When, in response to a call for papers for the 2008 conference of the Modern Language Association, I began to formulate an argument concerning the relationship between assessment and the corporate university, I assumed that writing such an analysis would be (and I hope I will be forgiven this admittedly masculinist simile) like “shooting fish in a barrel.” My intention was in fact to concentrate on something less obvious: assessment as a labor issue, and the ways the drive toward assessment is both explicitly and implicitly an attack on academic freedom. Imagine my surprise, then, when I read the spring 2008 President’s Column of the MLA Newsletter, with its defense of assessment (Graff 2008).

Towards an Autonomous Antioch College: The Story of the Nonstop Liberal Arts Institute

When the Antioch University Board of Trustees announced in June of 2007 that it was closing the historic Antioch College, we all mourned. Then, as Mother Jones recommended, we began to organize. Our goal was to reclaim the college from decades of dysfunctional government that had resulted in the loss of its institutional autonomy and ultimately its closure. This is the story of Antioch College in Exile, the project which became the Nonstop Liberal Arts Institute, an unusual one-year experiment in higher education and one of several strategies employed to save Antioch College from extinction—strategies which, as of this writing, appear to have been successful.

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