When Wesleyan University President Michael Roth visited China, he expected he'd need a hard sell to make the case for liberal arts degrees. (He's author of Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Matters.)
But, instead, he was admonished; students explained to him that the tradition of liberal education goes back centuries in China. This was one of those boots-on-the-ground moments for me, reading Dr. Roth's book. I thought about how there is no substitute for being in a place and meeting people. Like Roth, especially after reading news headlines, I would have expected minor interest in liberal education in China.
Which brings us back to how much U.S. interest there is these days in a liberal arts degree; parents, and possibly an increasing number of students, wonder what can be made of one. Humanisitic thinking, the ability to balance emotion and intellect, commitment, creative expression, expansive vision, tolerance, empathy… are these not the elements we want in citizens, employees, and mates?
- Michael Roth is president of Wesleyan University and the author of Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Matters.
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