Liberal Education

From the Editor

In July, AAC&U became a partner in the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation (TRHT) enterprise, a large-scale effort to uproot the belief in a hierarchy of human value that has so deformed our national life since the founding. Drawing on practices developed by truth and reconciliation commissions to resolve intractable conflicts around the world, the TRHT process will promote racial healing and seek to eradicate structural bias in communities across the United States. This special issue of Liberal Education is intended to introduce the TRHT enterprise, tracing its broad outlines and beginning to sketch out the role of higher education in it.

As a kind of prelude to the Featured Topic section, we include letters from the two former governors who serve as honorary co-chairs of the enterprise, Deval Patrick of Massachusetts and William Winter of Mississippi. These letters are followed by the lead article, in which Gail Christopher, senior advisor and vice president for TRHT at the Kellogg Foundation, reminds us how powerful the nexus of education, activism, and social justice has proven in the past, calls on students and educators to join the diverse coalition now forming to meet the exigencies of our own historical moment, and outlines the principles guiding the TRHT enterprise.

In her article, AAC&U President Lynn Pasquerella focuses more specifically on how the issues at the heart of TRHT are playing out on campuses—and being misrepresented in the media. The way for colleges and universities to rise to the challenges posed by a new generation of student activism, she suggests, is by fulfilling their mission to educate for democracy. Moreover, she argues that because a liberal education provides training in the art of listening and the exercise of moral imagination, even as it liberates the mind, it can play a vital role in racial healing.

As most readers of Liberal Education know already, AAC&U has a long history of working on issues of race and equity, a history rooted in the association’s mission to make liberal education and inclusive excellence the foundation for institutional purpose and educational practice. The work of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation may be less familiar, however. And so, to round out the Featured Topic section, La June Montgomery Tabron, the Kellogg Foundation’s president and CEO, reviews its deepening commitment to racial equity.

The initial step in TRHT was to determine how the enterprise could be structured most effectively to achieve the twin goals of healing the ravages left by centuries of racism and transforming the socioeconomic institutions that sustain belief in a hierarchy of human value. To this end, five design teams were formed, each charged with conducting a searching examination of a particular area of focus and developing an action plan that will lead to transformation in that area. The Designing the Transformation section below carries brief reports from the teams.

The Perspectives section highlights the work of two other TRHT partners: the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, whose practical applications of the research on implicit bias hold such promise for—and beyond—the academy, and the Quad Caucus of Minority Legislators, whose collaboration on public policy solutions serves as a model for counteracting structural racism. Finally, the two brief essays in the My View section call attention to ways in which the belief in racial hierarchy continues to enable and help perpetuate forms of economic exploitation and even direct colonial oppression.

AAC&U gratefully acknowledges the generous support of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation for this issue of Liberal Education and for the related symposium, “Student Activism and Liberal Education: Faculty Engagement in Turbulent Times,” which will be held in conjunction with the association’s annual meeting in January. On a more personal note, I want thank Mike Wenger, a consultant to the Kellogg Foundation, for his assistance in planning this issue and for helping us ensure that it conveys the spirit and promise of this terrifically ambitious and urgently needed enterprise.

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