Monday, October 27, 2014

How Not to Defend the Liberal Arts

Inside Higher Ed
October 27th, 2014

It shouldn't be surprising that the recent conference at St. John's College, in Santa Fe, entitled “What is Liberal Education For?” should have turned into an occasion for blaming a host of difficult challenges currently faced by the humanities and the liberal arts on critical theory and political correctness. I wasn't there, but that seems to be one of the conference's main preoccupations as reported by Inside Higher Ed in an article entitled “Doing Themselves In?” After all, St. John's, with its great books curriculum, is known for proudly embracing a traditional approach to a liberal arts education. And that's great. The country needs institutions of higher learning that take diverse approaches to humanistic education.
However, it's depressing to see such a thoroughly discredited argument being made in late 2014. The idea put forward by one the conference's major speakers, John Agresto, that the liberal arts are “dying” because of critical theory and the politicization of faculty, is not only overblown. It recycles an old and faulty argument that should have been set aside years ago

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