Liberal Education vs. Liberal-Arts Education

Ken Daniszewski

Maurice O'Sullivan has an excellent article in the latest issue of Change magazine, (subscription required), on the shortfalls of the current liberal education movement.  He argues that the liberal-education movement rests upon several myths, such as a spurious belief that a narrow focus on processes such as "critical thinking" can somehow take the place of the rich content found in the traditional liberal-arts curriculum. Sullivan writes:

For those of us who believe that success in business and the professions will come relatively easily to students who have been well prepared to engage in all the dialogues of life--an engagement that requires a broad range of historical and contemporary knowledge; the ability to reflect deeply on that knowledge and to evaluate it critically; and the ability to present informed opinions orally and in writing in a clear, powerful, and sophisticated way--the relentless movement toward narrower and narrower career education is disconcerting. And claiming that the smattering of knowledge provided by a liberal education component offers an adequate balance to narrow majors seems both disingenuous and dangerous.

Readers unfamiliar with the current state of the liberal-education movement might also want to browse through this issue of the Association of American Colleges and Universities' publication Peer Review which, we are told,  "illustrates the potential for public health education as a vehicle for liberal learning".

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