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Letter to the Editor of The Chronicle of Higher Education in response to Liberal Education: Lessons Beyond the Classroom

Monday, August 4, 2008

To the Editor:

Hersh and Keeling’s article responding to the recent statement from the National Association of Scholars (NAS) (“'Liberal Education': Lessons Beyond the Classroom” August 1, 2008) is a welcome corrective to the laughably out-of-touch and inaccurate portrayal of campus life NAS presents. Hersh and Keeling should be applauded for their endorsement of liberal education as worthy of continued support and attention in higher education.  They, too, however get their analysis “only partly right.”  Contrary to the implication in their article that liberal education needs renewal and is being neglected by college faculty, Hersh and Keeling and much of the education press are ignoring a genuine movement underway on hundreds of campuses to dynamically remap liberal education—and, most importantly, genuine efforts to ensure that all students achieve the clear benefits liberal education provides, both professionally and personally.

Through AAC&U’s Liberal Education and America’s Promise (LEAP) initiative,  hundreds of campuses and even some large state systems have embraced liberal education and are working to use its outcomes as a guiding framework for the entire educational experience.  And, contrary to what both Hersh and Keeling and the NAS suggest, faculty members are leading the effort to reinvent liberal education and provide it to all college students, not just to a fraction of them.  A group of faculty and deans launched an effort to advance liberal education outcomes across the entire University of Wisconsin system more than 4 years ago.  Twenty-three institutions in the California State University system—the largest state system of higher education in the country and one of the most diverse—recently established new guidelines for general education courses that their own press release notes “focus on core values of liberal education.” Faculty members at Miami-Dade College have in a new covenant demonstrated a campus-wide commitment to the core values of liberal education.

Liberal education is demonstrably the most effective form of education to prepare students to meet the challenges of today’s rapidly changing global economy and to become the engaged citizens our nation so desperately needs.  We all should reaffirm it as a priority for all students and in all fields, not just the arts and sciences or in liberal arts colleges alone.  Statements like those from the NAS just distract the media and the public from what is really happening on campus—a reinvention of undergraduate education with liberal education at its center.

Sincerely,

Carol Geary Schneider
President
Association of American Colleges and Universities

Carol Geary Schneider