Liberal Education

From the Editor

The Tony Award–winning musical Hamilton closes with the song “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story,” which emphasizes the power and importance of storytelling. Alexander Hamilton’s narrative differed based on who told it in life and in death, and we need to harness this power of storytelling in our efforts to claim the narrative of liberal education.

Multiple voices in the media, politics, business, and education are now telling the story of liberal education. With so many different interpretations, it is critical that voices in higher education—faculty, staff, administrators, students, and alumni—are in agreement as we discuss the true value of liberal education for all students in preparation for life, work, and citizenship.

The contributing authors in this issue’s featured topic section—Daniel J. McInerney, Amy Adams and Dana Dudley, and Ted Purinton and Jennifer Skaggs—make a strong case for the wide-ranging benefits of liberal education for all students, across the world and across disciplines. They encourage institutions to demonstrate the value of liberal education to multiple audiences by telling compelling stories that resonate with these diverse audiences. They also highlight the key skills that students attain through liberal education, which prepare students for work and for life—oral and written communication, analytical and problem-solving skills, and a demonstrated ability to apply knowledge in real-world settings. As we find a lack of civility across campuses and communities in the United States, the skills of liberal education equip our students to engage with diverse ideas and perspectives. Applying these skills should lead students to engage in constructive conversations about complex ideas instead of developing deeper divides based on lack of contact with people with different views and perspectives. Finally, we must track the emerging trend of the global growth of colleges and universities with a liberal education foundation, and we should integrate the lessons learned from these institutions in our collective case for the advancement of liberal education.

Many thanks are due to Ben Dedman, who worked closely with this issue’s contributing authors, and Kathryn Campbell, former editor of Liberal Education, who planned this issue’s featured topic section on claiming the narrative. Kathryn’s vision, and Ben’s dedication to carrying this vision forward through his role as managing editor for this issue, ensured that this issue advances the case for liberal education in a meaningful, practical, and cohesive manner that we hope will support your efforts in your educational context.

At another crucial point in Hamilton, a select group of the Founders makes a critical decision about the location of the new national capital. In the song “The Room Where It Happens,” only a handful of people are involved in the decision, frustrating others who were not in the room. This may sometimes be why people misunderstand the value of liberal education. Some simply don’t know what liberal education is, what its value is, or what their role to advance liberal education might be. Perhaps they haven’t been involved in these conversations on campus. We must make sure we continue to engage people from all walks of life in these conversations as we communicate the value of liberal education.

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