November, 2001

Liberal Education: A for Creativity; D-for Communication

By Carol Geary Schneider, president of the Association of American Colleges & Universities in Liberal Education Summer 2001 Vol. 87, No. 3.

"The academy is reinventing the practice of liberal education-but seems bent on ensuring that no one else knows" writes AAC&U President Carol Geary Schneider in a recent issue of Liberal Education.

Her message notes the perceived status and stigma of liberal education today: some fear it is vulnerable because it doesn't show immediate payoffs in an age of market values.

AAC&U is witness, she writes, to the "extraordinary work" being done to demonstrate liberal education's resurgence. Innovations on hundreds of campuses ensure that liberal education is vital and central and demonstrate how faculty have rethought curriculum and pedagogy. She cites the "Big Problems" courses at the University of Chicago and the community-based collaborative projects done by every senior at Portland State University as examples. Contemporary undergraduates, she reports, are learning how to put their knowledge at the service of society.

So why don't people know about this phenomenon? Schneider believes that these changes are not discussed as liberal education, either within or outside the academy. An initial problem is the term "liberal education" itself, in part because of the political connotation of the term "liberal" as well liberal education's ties to an earlier era when only a privileged few received a college education. Programs have generic labels that belie their grounding in a purposeful and contemporary liberal education. Students rarely hear their professors describe their courses or progress as examples of liberal education, although faculty report frequent discussions among themselves about these issues.

AAC&U continues to work nationally to be a voice and force for the value of liberal education. Schneider believes, however, that well-planned alliances are also essential in order to display the reinvigorated practices for liberal education and the power they have for educating today's students.

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