Letter to the Editor of the Wall Street Journal in response to “Our Compassless Colleges"

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The below ran in the September 11, 2007 issue of the Wall Street Journal.

To the Editor:

Peter Berkowitz (“Our Compassless Colleges,” September 5, 2007) is absolutely right that providing today’s college students with a good liberal education should be a national priority—to prepare graduates well for this volatile global economy and as responsible and informed citizens in our challenged democracy. Berkowitz, however, seems unaware of a major national movement to provide just this kind of liberal education to many more students on hundreds of campuses around the country. I suspect it is because of his narrow focus on Harvard University that he misses this important trend. Harvard does not represent the leading edge of educational reform in America.

Hundreds of colleges and universities are now actively involved in my organization’s Liberal Education and America’s Promise (LEAP) campaign (www.aacu.org/leap), Through this campaign, colleges of all sorts are working to provide their students with a more coherent curriculum and also more engaged learning practices—e.g. community-based research and projects—through which they are exploring some of the very important issues Berkowitz raises.

In fact, the report that is guiding the LEAP initiative, College Learning for the New Global Century, suggests a new set of Principles of Excellence, including the idea that all colleges should “Give Students a Compass” for their educational journey—a compass that will help them obtain the most important outcomes of a good liberal education, regardless of their institution or choice of major. This report makes it clear that liberal education is the shared responsibility of all departments and majors. General education or a core curriculum can be part of liberal education, but can scarcely do the job alone.

Before Berkowitz condemns all of higher education based on what Harvard is doing, he might want to do his own homework about what other colleges are actually doing to advance liberal education in a global context.

Carol Geary Schneider
Association of American Colleges and Universities

Carol Geary Schneider