Liberal Education

From The Editor

Within American higher education, the increasingly ubiquitous rhetoric of the “global” signals recognition of the need to respond to the economic, cultural, and political changes that began in the run up to the millennium and have since continued apace. More specifically, institutions are working to ensure that college learning is (and will remain) relevant to life, work, and citizenship in an environment being reshaped by globalization and its dramatic and often dislocating effects. It is widely acknowledged, for example, that some form of “global learning” must be brought to bear so that graduates will be better prepared to understand and help address “global challenges,” act responsibly as engaged “global citizens,” and succeed in the “global economy.” But what exactly does all this mean, and how can it actually be accomplished? What, in other words, does a liberal education fully attuned to the times—a “global” liberal education—look like in practice?

These and related questions were raised and explored by the AAC&U community gathered in San Francisco for “Global Positioning: Essential Learning, Student Success, and the Currency of US Degrees,” the ninety-seventh annual meeting of the association. In her address to the opening plenary session, Kavita Ramdas noted that, despite “the ease with which the term ‘global’ is used in almost every setting,” including educational settings, “the true implications of what that term requires seem nonetheless opaque to many of us.” The title of this year’s meeting metaphorically invokes the Global Positioning System, created by the US Department of Defense but perhaps best known for its civilian applications. When we don’t know where we are or where we’re going—or both—many of us reach for our smart phones or use some other digital navigation device to consult the Global Positioning System. The metaphor seems especially apt, given the opacity of higher education’s global aspirations.

In addition to Ramdas’s exploration of global education, the Featured Topic section of this issue features four other presentations from the annual meeting. Walter Fluker presents a model for the development of ethical student leadership, a model with implications for “the problem of diversity and culture in a globalized world.” Celebrating the fortieth anniversary of the AAC&U Program on the Status and Education of Women, Catharine Stimpson reviews the many accomplishments of the program and, in looking ahead to the next forty years, poses questions about future directions. Any answers, she insists, “must recognize what is now a truism: we live in a global society.” Larry Braskamp and Mark Engberg describe the relationship between “global perspective-taking” and student development, noting that “in today’s pluralistic and global society . . . this developmental journey is increasingly complex.”

Finally, John Ottenhoff reports on an annual meeting presentation of the results of a project designed to examine how metacognitive interventions can improve student learning.

 

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