Liberal Education

From the Editor

As part of the Liberal Education and America’s Promise (LEAP) initiative, AAC&U is convening a series of invitational forums designed to draw public and campus attention to the LEAP vision for liberal education in the twenty-first century. The forums are designed to engage academics, business leaders, K–12 educators, policy makers, and community leaders with the essential learning outcomes and high-impact educational practices identified in the LEAP initiative. The programs draw on the innovative work of campuses, and also call upon key stakeholders to provide leadership for carrying action agendas forward in specific state and regional contexts. LEAP forums are supported by generous grants from the Charles Engelhard Foundation and the John Templeton Foundation, and by contributions from participating and hosting institutions.

The third LEAP forum, cosponsored and hosted in Massachusetts by Clark University, was focused on “Liberal Education and Effective Practice.” Over two days in mid-March, participants considered ways of enhancing undergraduate programs in the arts and sciences in order to empower students to be not only sophisticated, well-informed thinkers but also effective doers. Sessions were organized around the presentation and discussion of a series of papers commissioned specially for the occasion; versions of those papers are published here in an expanded Featured Topic section, following a more in-depth overview of the Clark/AAC&U forum itself. The issues explored at the conference were anticipated in an article written by Richard Freeland, one of the conference’s principal organizers and now Massachusetts commissioner of higher education, and published here last winter. We’re very glad of this opportunity to follow up.

In the abbreviated Perspectives section, an article by four faculty members of Lawrence University—all from different disciplines—describes an innovative curricular response to the growing use of technology to create and sustain an “electronic tether” between students to their parents. Through engagement with forms of “individualized learning,” Lawrence students have been able to achieve greater intellectual and emotional autonomy. Finally, rounding out the issue is an appeal for “empowerful” teaching, for teaching that leads students to engage in personally meaningful ways with their own education.

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