The Civic Renewal of a Liberal
By Theodore E. Long
From a August 24, 2000 convocation address at the college
In his address, Elizabethtown College
President Theodore E. Long calls the expansion of professional
programs and the decline of the traditional liberal arts a
"sea change" that reflects the successful expansion
of higher education in the United States. He calls for "[r]ebuilding
liberal education on a new touchstone of civic purpose"
that will make it once again central to a college education
and will bolster both faculty work and student learning.
Once the foundation of a good education,
the liberal arts have become a set of academic disciplines
unto themselves, Long says. Calls to "protect" the
liberal arts from professional education or to guarantee their
historic place in the academy "run against the tide of
history," according to Long, and will invariably fail.
Instead, he advocates that liberal education being integrated
into all aspects of modern education and infused with a civic
purpose. This, he believes, is the best way for liberal education
to remain relevant in a larger social context and once again
become a central part of higher education.
Long asserts that the term liberal
education should not be confined to a certain set of disciplines.
"All disciplines," he argues, "can find a home
for their expertise in the house of civic purpose." Embracing
the civic obligation of liberal education, Long writes, would
lead to the integration of the liberal arts in professional
programs rather than being "sequestered" in an early
general education curriculum after which students move on
to professional study. He says that the integration of the
liberal arts will make them more attractive to everyone, make
scholarship relevant for the general population, and will
ultimately renew the mission of higher education.
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