Dicta

The home of “things said” by the National Association of Scholars.

Episode #43: Lincoln on the Golf Course

Peter Wood

In this episode, Peter Wood is joined by NAS Board of Directors member Tom Klingenstein to discuss Abraham Lincoln, multiculturalism, the liberal arts, and "the golf shot heard round the academic world."

What Groucho Marx Can Teach Us About Liberal Education

Jon D. Schaff

The world wearies of defenses of liberal education and the humanities. 

Conjuring Pushkin

Peter Wood

A review of playwright Jonathan Leaf's and director Christopher McElroen's play Pushkin.

Defending a Debased Version of the Liberal Arts

Peter Wood

The AAUP and AAC&U issue statement in support of a hollowed liberal arts.

Civics Education Must Be Liberal Education

Ian Lindquist

Ian Lindquist writes on the flaws of civics education, and on how it can be improved.

NAS Co-Hosts Event Featuring Carly Fiorina

NAS

Former Hewlett-Packard CEO and former presidential candidate Carly Fiorina spoke about leadership at a private event.

Toward an American Liberal Education

John Agresto

In the Summer 2017 Academic Questions (vol. 30, no. 2), John Agresto argues the usefulness and value of a liberal education in twenty-first century America.

Under the Ivy

Peter Wood

Ivy League universities picked up $41.59 billion in taxpayer-funded payments. How do these universities spend their share of the public purse? 

How Canon Change Should Happen

Carol Iannone

Carol Iannone argues for the traditional method of canon formation.

Radicalism’s Yield: Politics and the Illiberal Academy

Mark Zunac

In the Winter 2016 Academic Questions (vol. 29, no. 4), Mark Zunac discusses the evolution of liberal arts from a field encouraging inquiry to today's ideological sounding board.

Are Your Kids Getting a Daily Dose of News Propaganda with Their Common Core?

Ashley Thorne

Common Core offers students dumbed down and biased news articles to fill an appetite of "informational texts."

Time and Beauty: Commencement Address at Veritas Academy

Peter Wood

Last week, NAS president Peter Wood spoke to students of Veritas Preparatory Academy as they move into America's universities. 

Avoiding Scholarship's Dead Ends

Bradford Tuckfield

Statistical analysis and adherence to tradition can help determine which academic programs have lasting value. 

Summer 2015 Academic Questions: "Common Readings, Uncommon Conversations"

NAS

The new issue of Academic Questions takes on questions about common readings, "translingualism," and more. 

The Liberal Arts as Conversation

Jack Kerwick

Philosophy professor Jack Kerwick writes that the purpose of education is not traditionalism, careerism, or activism, but what he calls "conversationalism."

Acknowledging Things of Darkness: Postcolonial Criticism of The Tempest

In the Fall 2014 issue of Academic Questions, Duke Pesta, associate professor of English at the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh, writes on the limitations of postcolional criticism.

The Liberal Arts Are in Trouble - Should We Celebrate?

Peter Wood

Minding the Campus holds a symposium on the question of whether the decline of the liberal arts is actually constructive. 

Truman Show

Peter Wood

A sensible university in the Midwest shows a light-hearted side in a video featuring its president. Peter Wood gives a nod to the good humor and reflects on the strains of political correctness cropping up in the university's curriculum. 

An Exchange on the Bowdoin Report: Harvey Mansfield and Bowdoin's Paul Franco

NAS

In the Claremont Review of Books, Harvey Mansfield and Paul Franco disagree about What Does Bowdoin Teach?

Peter Wood on The American Mind with Charles Kesler

Peter Wood

In an interview with Charles Kesler, NAS president Peter Wood discussed What Does Bowdoin Teach?

A Profession at Risk: Teaching Humans in the New Millennium

David Clemens

David Clemens reviews a new collection of essays and asks, "What is real education, and why does it need defending?"

Peter Wood Interviewed on Leaders with Ginni Thomas

Michael Toscano

NAS president Peter Wood interviewed about NAS's findings on Bowdoin College.

Are Conservative Academics Stuck in a Blind Alley?

Peter Wood

Peter Wood Responds to Samuel Goldman's Criticism of the Bowdoin Report

Gen. Ed.: Light, Getting Lighter

Glenn Ricketts

Why most undergraduates don't learn much of anything in their required liberal arts courses.

Encompassing Bowdoin

Peter Wood

Peter Wood comments on the Bowdoin report for First Things.

Harvey Mansfield Praises the Bowdoin Project

Michael Toscano

Harvey Mansfield congratulates Peter Wood on the Bowdoin report.

NAS Response to President Mills

Peter Wood

Peter Wood and Michael Toscano respond to the criticisms of the president of Bowdoin College.

A "Comprehensive Assessment" or "Failed Attack"? You Decide.

Michael Toscano

Read the responses to NAS's What Does Bowdoin Teach?

Video: Peter Wood on Wall Street Journal TV

NAS president Peter Wood asks Bowdoin College to consider, "Is your curriculum really teaching students how to think critically?"

Commencing the Bowdoin Conversation

Michael Toscano

NAS invites readers to share their responses to What Does Bowdoin Teach?

What Does Bowdoin Teach? How a Contemporary Liberal Arts College Shapes Students

Peter Wood

A 360-degree look at the politicization of a contemporary liberal arts college.

Bowdoin College's Liberated Students

Michael Toscano

NAS has published its thirteenth and final entry, "Active Learners: The Liberated Student," in its series of contextualizing observations for the Bowdoin Project.

A Defense of "Research-Teaching" at Bowdoin College

Michael Toscano

NAS has published its twelfth entry, "Research-Teachers: A Validation," in its series of contextualizing observations for the Bowdoin Project.

Bowdoin College, from Teaching to "Research-Teaching"

Michael Toscano

NAS has published its eleventh entry, "From Collegiate Professors to Research-Teachers," in its series of contextualizing observations for the Bowdoin Project.

Bowdoin College and Financial Aid

Michael Toscano

NAS has published its tenth entry, "'Financial Aid at Bowdoin: A History," in its series of contextualizing observations for the Bowdoin Project.

Bowdoin College and Diversity

Michael Toscano

NAS has published its ninth entry, "'Diversity' Comes to Bowdoin," in its series of contextualizing observations for the Bowdoin Project.

The Future of the Humanities

George Leef

The humanities, once the core of higher education, have fallen on hard times.

Bowdoin and Gender Deconstruction

Michael Toscano

NAS has published its eighth entry, "Gender Deconstructed," in its series of contextualizing observations for the Bowdoin Project.

Bowdoin and the Common Good

Michael Toscano

NAS has published its seventh entry, "The Common Good's Uncommon Usage," in its series of contextualizing observations for the Bowdoin Project.

The History of Bowdoin College from 1978 to Present

Michael Toscano

NAS has published its sixth entry, "Bowdoin's History from 1978 to Present," in its series of contextualizing observations for the Bowdoin Project.

The History of Bowdoin College from 1952 to 1978

Michael Toscano

NAS has published its fifth entry, "Bowdoin's History from 1952 to 1978," in its series of contextualizing observations for the Bowdoin Project.

The History of Bowdoin College from 1871 to 1952

Michael Toscano

NAS has published its fourth entry, "Bowdoin's History from 1871 to 1952," in its series of contextualizing observations for the Bowdoin Project.

The History of Bowdoin College from 1794 to 1871

Michael Toscano

NAS has published its third entry, "Bowdoin's History from 1794 to 1871," in its series of contextualizing observations for the Bowdoin Project.

The Bowdoin Project Continues

Michael Toscano

NAS has published its second entry, a collection of 41 charts, tables, and basic facts about Bowdoin College, in its series of contextualizing observations for the Bowdoin Project.

The Bowdoin Project Arrives

Michael Toscano

NAS has launched a new webpage dedicated to our study of Bowdoin College. It will feature a series of contextualizing observations in the weeks leading up to our publication of the full report.

Hillsdale Program in DC Seeks Teachers

NAS

NAS member Paul Moreno is recruiting teachers for a Hillsdale College program in Washington, DC. 

Capitalism and Western Civilization: Liberal Education

William H. Young

William Young discusses the need for liberal educatrion for today's workforce.

Elvis vs. Julia: A Lesson from the Liberal Arts

David Clemens

We would desire a free life all the more if we really grasped what the liberal arts has to teach.

A Better Way to Educate Professionals

Douglas Campbell

Suggestions for how the faculty of the traditional liberal arts, the physical sciences and the management and business programs can collaborate to better educate professionals.

Another Good Program: History at Holy Cross College, Indiana

Glenn Ricketts

We add another academically solid program to our list.

Humanities, Anyone?

Jascha Kessler

Jascha Kessler explains why teaching the humanities just isn't what it use to be.

Liberal Education Needs More Disruptive Technology

Jason Fertig

Why can’t we decouple liberal learning from college degrees?

Princeton and Urbana Universities: A Tale of Two Schools

Richard Vedder

Tax policies favor rich colleges, even though small, struggling liberal-arts colleges probably make far better use of incremental private donations, says Richard Vedder.

The Many Problems of Online Education

J.M. Anderson

Online courses are very popular with students, and have the enthusiastic endorsement of senior academic administrators. The only problem, says J.M. Anderson, is that the students aren't learning anything.

Three Cheers for Useless Education

J.M. Anderson

A community college dean argues that the value of a liberal arts education is not primarily monetary or vocational, and that's just fine.

What Does Bowdoin Teach?

Peter Wood

The National Association of Scholars announces the beginning of a new project examining the curriculum, student activities, and campus values of Bowdoin College as a case study to learn what a contemporary liberal arts college education consists of.

Video: J. Budziszewski on a Primer on Natural Law

Professor J. Budziszewski discusses classical Natural Law with Inside Academia's Andy Nash.

Higher Education's Role in Coarsening Popular American Tastes

Peter Wood

Peter Wood has an interesting couple of articles on the Chronicle's Innovations blog this week. He compares Lily Bart, a fictional character in the 1905 novel The House of Mirth with Lady Gaga and talks about how higher education is responsible for giving "trash culture a veneer of respectability" and how it "encourages students to open themselves to many of their worst impulses" (Lily Bart vs. Lady Gaga).

Ideology in the Industrial Relations Academy

Mitchell Langbert

The Labor and Employment Relations Association, previously called the Industrial Relations Research Association, is a learned society devoted to industrial and labor relations. Traditionally, LERA has supported the National Labor Relations Act but it had not been overtly partisan. In fact, its most prominent member, John T. Dunlop, had served as Secretary of Labor under President Gerald Ford. When I finished my doctoral studies in 1991 I found the organization to be pro labor rather than neutral in orientation, and I had not participated in it since the January 2000 meeting. Since it is one of the only games in town, I decided to give it another chance in 2011. What I found is shocking. LERA is not merely ideologically biased, but overtly partisan and Democratic. Virtually every session I attended included an attack on the GOP. I submitted a blog to LERA's new website, called the Employment Policy Research Network (EPRN), questioning the group's partisan atmosphere. The LERA leadership, which oversees the website, not only refused to publish it but refused to respond to me in writing. I had to call the LERA office to obtain a verbal response. I posted the blog on my Website.

For-Profits Break the Monopoly on What a College Can Be

Peter Wood

In the final piece of his four-part series, Peter Wood argues that the United States needs the versatility that the for-profit sector provides.

Prison Education: Can the Liberal Arts Liberate?

Ashley Thorne

A recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education titled "Doing Time, With a Degree to Show for It," discusses the value of higher education for prison inmates. The author is a distinguished fellow at the Bard Prison Initiative. I was especially arrested by this excerpt from the author's conversation with a former inmate:

As I pressed him to explain, he talked of growing up in Harlem, where his friends in the street always wanted to know "who was putting us down." Bard taught him, he said, to think critically about statements like that. His classes in history and anthropology had enabled him to understand his situation in a social context. "Now," he said, smiling, "I know life is more than 'us versus them.'"

 Life is more than 'us versus them.' I'm glad that history and anthropology classes are teaching this to the incarcerated. But for most students, liberal arts classes teach just the opposite - that history is the history of identity-group-based oppression. Just look at Howard Zinn's textbooks. It sounds as if colleges and universities have something to learn from programs such as the Bard Prison Initiative. To read further on prison education, check out this article from the NAS:

Inmates in liberal arts programs frequently invoke the language of inner freedom to describe their experience.  The irony, of course, is that so many students who are on the outside attending elite four-year colleges and universities adopt the pretence that their freedom is phony and that they are victims of an oppressive society.

Online Ed's Niche Role

David Clemens

Online education should serve as a home for orphaned liberal arts and "boutique" courses for motivated students.

New Excellent Program: UCLA Center for Liberal Arts and Free Institutions

Ashley Thorne

This center fosters the study of free institutions, Great Books, Shakespeare's plays, and the meaning of life.

NYT Debate: Do Colleges Need French Departments?

Ashley Thorne

In light of SUNY-Albany's cuts to its foreign language programs, the New York Times asked eight higher ed experts, "Do colleges need French departments?" Heres a takeaway sentence from each one. (See also this SUNY-Albany professor's remarks on the language cuts, posted at NAS.org.) Martha Nussbaum, author of Not for Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities: "Even if a nation’s only goal were economic prosperity, the humanities supply essential ingredients for a healthy business culture." Louis Menand, author of The Marketplace of Ideas: "The loss of any department is a loss to every department at that institution." John McWhorter, author of Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold Story of English: "I believe we should reconsider having vocational tracks like those in European educational systems." Mark Bauerlein, English professor at Emory University: "Lose [the humanities] and the college produces a half-educated graduate." Ellen Schrecker, author of The Lost Soul of Higher Education: "Languages, literature, philosophy, history – by exposing students to a wide range of new and old ideas and allowing them to articulate their own responses to those ideas – can create the reflective and self-aware citizens our nation needs." Gaye Tuchman, sociology professor at the University of Connecticut: "No one put a price tag on either the appeal or utility of Latin, of reading Racine or Confucius, or of learning the structure of a symphony." Richard Vedder, director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity: "As resources tighten and that luxury no longer is available, universities need to do what businesses routinely do – reinvent what they do to meet the changing needs of society." Anne E. McCall, professor of French at the University of Denver: "That said, the attraction of particular subjects does shift, and universities need to adjust offerings that make sense for their mission, size, geographical location, and budgets."

Academic Retrenchment and Political Strategies in New York

Publius

A call to readers to contact New York's gubernatorial candidates about the massive cuts to foreign language at SUNY Albany.

Ed in the Air

Ashley Thorne

In the movie Up in the Air, George Clooney's character works for a company that sends him around the country to fire people. To save the company money on airfare, hotels, and rental cars, Clooney's female colleague, a young Cornell grad, suggests that they switch to firing people through videoconferencing on laptops. The method seems to work, but the viewer feels instinctively that this is even more demeaning than getting fired by a third party company. There's something so impersonal and distant about talking to a screen. Later in the movie, the girl (Cornell grad) gets dumped by her boyfriend via text message, and once again, we see the medium itself as adding to her humiliation. We've always had the sense that with any communication short of face-to-face conversation, there's something vital missing. That's been the abiding concern during the rise of online education. But an article in today's Inside Higher Ed declares that online education will lose none of the elements that make traditional education what it is:

As we look to the future of liberal education, we seem unlikely to change the fundamentals of what has made that model successful. We will enhance the curriculum with interactive smart classrooms, course and lecture capture, ubiquitous wireless connecting smaller and more capable digital devices, and other technologies not yet invented, but close faculty-student and student-student interaction will remain the core. What seems more likely to change – and to offer transformative possibilities – is the medium.

But isn't the medium the message? The author maintains, however, that "there is every reason to believe that whatever 'liberal education' is, 'it' can travel over a network." He offers some compelling reasons.

The Liberal Arts Belong in Liberal Democracy: A Response to Martha Nussbaum

Keith Whitaker

Nussbaum’s apparent defense of the liberal arts turns out to be just another rallying cry for diversity and socialism. But the liberal arts should give citizens the knowledge to understand the worth of freedom and the humanity to make a free life worth living.

Charles Murray and Progressive Education-Part 2

Tom Wood

In the second of this three-part series, Tom Wood connects Thorndike's theory (that all training is specific to the task at hand, and that there is no transfer of learning from one practice or field to another) and Charles Murray's criticism of the liberal arts.

Zombies Ahead!

Peter Wood

Creeping public controversy about the role of zombies in our society prompts us to consider their place in higher education.

Globalizing Higher Education in the Liberal Arts

Tom Wood

Liberal arts education has been under attack recently in the U.S. as meaningless and irrelevant, but it is gaining a foothold in other countries.

Educating the Rich and Powerful: The College Backgrounds of America's Richest and Its Top CEOs

Tom Wood

How higher education has influenced the business world

Beyond the Politics: Making the Case for the Liberal Arts

Tom Wood

Students must possess cultural literacy in order to realize true academic literacy.

Dis-honoring Yeshiva

Peter Wood

Yeshiva ousted James Otteson, who had just been hired to found and direct the university's academic honors program. Rumor has it that his pseudonymous blog was what turned the Yeshiva administration against him, but we don