Beyond The University, Why Liberal Education Matters by Michael Roth

Yesterday we dropped off our kids at Wesleyan University.  The President of Wesleyan University is Michael Roth.  At the end of the day he speaks to the parents before they all depart leaving their children to begin their life as a student a Wesleyan.   This would have been the third time we saw Michael speak to the parents but the truth is we never showed up for the other two.  This time we went to hear the wrap up.   I am really glad we went. Having the head of the University speak about the experience that your child is about to embark on is powerful.

Michael’s last book which came out a few months ago is called Beyond The University, Why Liberal Education Matters.  A worthy read if you are interested in education.  Bottom line is that many of the conversations we are having today about the worth of a liberal arts education started with Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Frederick Douglas and W. E. B. DuBois.  Should we be educating people for vocational instruction based on their economic background or should we embrace the concept of education where your mind can be expanded through several disciplines?

To be able to spend four years opening your mind to anything from opera to art history to computer science is inspiring.  I do believe that a liberal arts education particularly a progressive one instills the skill of being a life long learner.  It is not so much what happens in the four years in higher education but what you do with that knowledge once you have get out and hopefully have been intellectually transformed.

Michael Roth practices what he preaches.  Education is a life long discipline.  It is worth listening to the NPR piece on All Things Considered where he talks about a liberal arts education.


Comments (Archived):

  1. AG

    I think a lot of this depends on what type of college you go to (specifically with regards to major requirements) and what you plan to do after college. For students that plan to pursue more traditional career paths like banking, law, medicine, etc. it’s hard to be as curious as one might otherwise be. In my opinion all of the best colleges should promote the notion of being a lifelong learner, unfortunately due to requirements and grades, not all of them do.

  2. Tom Labus

    No better education even if you are goofing off

    1. Gotham Gal


  3. pointsnfigures

    I didn’t receive a Liberal Arts education. College of Business. It has suited me well. I remember in 1987 reading the book, The Closing of the American Mind by Allen Bloom, and thinking I wasted four years. I think that book is very relevant today. I like the idea of that sort of education with a caveat-some kids aren’t cut out for it. They should major in business, a science, engineering or something like math. Get some sort of exposure to a skill that they can utilize post grad. I dislike the “social” majors.One of our daughters went to Davidson College and took the Humanities Core. There are very few schools that teach it the old fashioned way. It’s a two year program. Unfortunately, less and less are taking it.Our other daughter wasn’t cut out for that kind of program. She is finishing this year in Chinese and Finance. Forcing her to do a humanities core would have caused her to drop out of college.Good luck to your son. We have had a lot of friends kids go to Wesleyan. One is in the Frosh class with Josh this year.

  4. awaldstein

    English/Philosophy major here.From studying Robbe Grillet and Buckminster Fuller to building the brands for Atari, CREAF, KEYN, RLD amongst others seems liked an easy step down a road that begged to be followed.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Love it

  5. jonathanc

    Great post. I am a huge believer in liberal arts education. Use graduate school to specialize. (I know it is a privilege to have that kind of flexibility and not right or available for everyone.) When I was doing an MBA it struck me that the undergrad business school students were incredibly focused and probably a lot smarter than the grad students. But they had no context to put their education in and many were just incredibly dull (unless you wanted to discuss CAPM or tax accounting strategy). I can’t imagine closing off so many options, so young. Liberal arts allows students to explore areas that they may never have known existed. The ability to embrace and learn something new is an incredibly powerful skill.

  6. Mike Hart

    The tough thing is that society is discounting liberal arts majors at the moment due to changing markets. The U.S. ranks 27th in the world in students obtaining science and engineering degrees. Two-thirds of doctorates awarded by U.S universities in engineering are to foreign students. Six of ten foreign students in computer science return to their home countries. The feeling of the U.S. falling behind in a tech driven world is leading to more STEM programs in high school trying to get kids excited about science. To all of this I say when you need someone to run those science-based companies go find a liberal arts graduate who understands the sociology behind becoming a successful entity.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Totally agree

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