Liberal Education

From the Editor

Doing the right thing is frequently associated with sacrifice. Talk of environmental justice often seems to entail talk of "scarcity," for instance; talk of racial justice often seems to entail talk of "privilege." Yet in focusing on what some must give up, we may risk losing sight of what all stand to gain. All would benefit from the elimination of racism just as surely as all would benefit from a clean environment. The real constituency of justice is always inclusive.

That is the truth so cleverly represented by the metaphor of the "miner's canary," elaborated in this issue by Lani Guinier. The point, of course, is that a toxic atmosphere in the mine is a toxic atmosphere in the mine, whether for the canary or for the miner. If for the canary one substitutes people of color or women or gays and lesbians or virtually any other excluded or underrepresented group, then one begins to see the analytical power of the metaphor. If, as Guinier argues so persuasively, "the experience of people of color in higher education is the experience of the canary in the mines," then that experience can be used as a diagnostic tool. It can inform an agenda to transform higher education in ways that would benefit people of color, yes, but everyone else as well. This lesson is borne out in the experience of the Texas "canary watchers," whose story Guinier tells.

Carol Geary Schneider strikes a similar note in her rousing anniversary address, delivered at the annual meeting and published in this issue. She observes that it was the challenge of "fulfill[ing] the promise of an empowering education for all our recently included students" that gave impetus to the several reform agendas now reaching fruition in what she calls "a far-reaching reinvigoration of liberal education." Whereas talk of liberal education once entailed talk of "elite" education, the hallmark of the reinvigorated liberal education Schneider describes, and AAC&U works to advance, is that it benefits all students--and, ultimately, the whole of society. This is the essential content of the message AAC&U will take, over the course of the next decade, to the several academic and public constituencies of the LEAP campaign.

In coordination with that effort, we introduce two new regular features to Liberal Education. The first is a series of articles, entitled "Liberal Education & America's Promise," that will present a broad array of perspectives on the contemporary value of a liberal education. The second, "LEAP Update," is an addition to the News and Information section designed to keep readers informed of the progress of the campaign.

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