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An eloquent defense of liberal education, seen against the backdrop of its contested history in America Contentious debates over the benefits—or drawbacks—of a liberal education are as old as America itself. From Benjamin Franklin to the Internet pundits, critics of higher education have attacked its irrelevance and elitism—often calling for more vocational instruction. Th An eloquent defense of liberal education, seen against the backdrop of its contested history in America Contentious debates over the benefits—or drawbacks—of a liberal education are as old as America itself. From Benjamin Franklin to the Internet pundits, critics of higher education have attacked its irrelevance and elitism—often calling for more vocational instruction. Thomas Jefferson, by contrast, believed that nurturing a student’s capacity for lifelong learning was useful for science and commerce while also being essential for democracy. In this provocative contribution to the disputes, university president Michael S. Roth focuses on important moments and seminal thinkers in America’s long-running argument over vocational vs. liberal education.   Conflicting streams of thought flow through American intellectual history: W. E. B. DuBois’s humanistic principles of pedagogy for newly emancipated slaves developed in opposition to Booker T. Washington’s educational utilitarianism, for example. Jane Addams’s emphasis on the cultivation of empathy and John Dewey’s calls for education as civic engagement were rejected as impractical by those who aimed to train students for particular economic tasks. Roth explores these arguments (and more), considers the state of higher education today, and concludes with a stirring plea for the kind of education that has, since the founding of the nation, cultivated individual freedom, promulgated civic virtue, and instilled hope for the future.


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An eloquent defense of liberal education, seen against the backdrop of its contested history in America Contentious debates over the benefits—or drawbacks—of a liberal education are as old as America itself. From Benjamin Franklin to the Internet pundits, critics of higher education have attacked its irrelevance and elitism—often calling for more vocational instruction. Th An eloquent defense of liberal education, seen against the backdrop of its contested history in America Contentious debates over the benefits—or drawbacks—of a liberal education are as old as America itself. From Benjamin Franklin to the Internet pundits, critics of higher education have attacked its irrelevance and elitism—often calling for more vocational instruction. Thomas Jefferson, by contrast, believed that nurturing a student’s capacity for lifelong learning was useful for science and commerce while also being essential for democracy. In this provocative contribution to the disputes, university president Michael S. Roth focuses on important moments and seminal thinkers in America’s long-running argument over vocational vs. liberal education.   Conflicting streams of thought flow through American intellectual history: W. E. B. DuBois’s humanistic principles of pedagogy for newly emancipated slaves developed in opposition to Booker T. Washington’s educational utilitarianism, for example. Jane Addams’s emphasis on the cultivation of empathy and John Dewey’s calls for education as civic engagement were rejected as impractical by those who aimed to train students for particular economic tasks. Roth explores these arguments (and more), considers the state of higher education today, and concludes with a stirring plea for the kind of education that has, since the founding of the nation, cultivated individual freedom, promulgated civic virtue, and instilled hope for the future.

30 review for Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Matters

  1. 5 out of 5

    Rolland

    Beyond the University is a brief, scholarly history of the philosophy of higher education in America, excerpting from some of the best and most intriguing figures of the past 200 years. The author, Michael Roth, is the current president of Wesleyan University (disclosure: I am an alum) and his book comes as a response to, in part, an increasingly specialized economy, global access to courses via the internet, and assertions that the value of higher education should be measured by immediate marke Beyond the University is a brief, scholarly history of the philosophy of higher education in America, excerpting from some of the best and most intriguing figures of the past 200 years. The author, Michael Roth, is the current president of Wesleyan University (disclosure: I am an alum) and his book comes as a response to, in part, an increasingly specialized economy, global access to courses via the internet, and assertions that the value of higher education should be measured by immediate marketable skills, and that choices about colleges and content are essentially market choices whose primary measure should be ROI (return on investment). To his credit, Roth readily admits that the worth of education should be examined. He tells of the current tensions between people who think the goal of higher education should primarily be to develop workforce skills or measurable educational "results," versus to foster something broader, with benefits beyond the market economy. One of the book's great contributions is to show, convincingly, how this tension is nothing new. It has existed for centuries in America. The book's subtitle is a bit deceptive. Instead of illustrating "why liberal education matters" by showing the success stories of liberal education, or the shortcomings of a narrowly utilitarian view of educations, the book is really a history. It tours through time and the meaning of education, specifically of American colleges and universities, according to some great American thinkers. Roth's excerpts are abundant and wonderful - it is hard not to be inspired by the range of American figures and the depth of thought represented here: Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin. Frederick Douglass and W.E.B. Du Bois. Ralph Waldo Emerson and William James. Jane Addams and John Dewey. He addresses recent controversies sparked by Alan Bloom's The Closing of the American Mind. For someone interested in this kind of history - and I am - it was a marvelous and succinct, if not tightly-packed, read. Strangely, most of the time it hardly feels like Roth is making an argument at all, but instead is surveying other people's arguments. From that perspective, it leaves readers with a rich set of choices for what they think the meaning of education is or should be. Greater autonomy and freedom? Creating the language for a common culture? Using the past to better guide us toward the future? Opportunity to address the big questions or virtues of being human? Informing our role in society and service to others? Plasticity to address a rapidly changing set of challenges? A path to meaning in varied life circumstances? Although scholarly and historical, this book is a helpful guide in thinking about the past, present, and - most importantly - the future of liberal education.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Mary Bronson

    This book was not bad. I had to read this book for my Liberal Arts Studies class and I thought it was wrote in a way where the average person who is not in the academic field can understand it. I thought Roth made some very good points about why Liberal Education matters. I liked the examples he provided from Thomas Jefferson to W.E.B. Dubois.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Chuck

    Roth writes an excellent little overview of the philosophical undercurrents of liberal arts education in the United States. The book draws comparisons between the liberal arts concept and the advent of the modern research university. He traces the liberal art tradition's origins back to Jefferson and Franklin, finding interesting links to their philosophical ideas and the founding of the Universities of Pennsylvania and Virginia. He traces the liberal arts concept throughout the 19th and 20th ce Roth writes an excellent little overview of the philosophical undercurrents of liberal arts education in the United States. The book draws comparisons between the liberal arts concept and the advent of the modern research university. He traces the liberal art tradition's origins back to Jefferson and Franklin, finding interesting links to their philosophical ideas and the founding of the Universities of Pennsylvania and Virginia. He traces the liberal arts concept throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, too, and I particularly enjoyed the emphasis on liberal arts education as liberator for individuals like W.E.B. Dubois and Jane Addams. This is my most recent in a string of books about higher education, with an emphasis on those written by small liberal arts college presidents. As Roth is the president of Wesleyan University, I hoped that he would place a great focus on the evolution of the small liberal arts college tradition. He didn't. I won't hold that against him, and his scope of what is "beyond the university" is appealingly broader than just small colleges. He admittedly peppers the book with references to colleges like, Bowdoin, Wesleyan, Williams, and Amherst. He also references some of the other major scholarship by college presidents, current and former. I think the most explicit reference is to Victor Farrell's Liberal Arts at the Brink and the efforts of the Lumina Foundation. Liberal Arts at the Brink, by the way, is a treat for small liberal arts college fans and I recommend it. His references to current practices in student affairs and academic civic engagement are blunt and interesting. Those are probably what make the book the most interesting. Reading about the advent of students affairs in the 1920s and complaints about drunk 19th century college students alongside William James and James Dewey made this book totally worth reading.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Dan Graser

    Many will be familiar with Michael S. Roth from his popular Coursera courses, and many others will have heard his name from his current position, President of Wesleyan University. However, I must confess that I had only heard of him from a reference in Martha Nussbaum's work, "Not for Profit," dealing with this same issue, the continuing importance and relevance of a liberal education. I gladly took her recommendation and what a fantastic recommendation it was, this volume is a fantastic history Many will be familiar with Michael S. Roth from his popular Coursera courses, and many others will have heard his name from his current position, President of Wesleyan University. However, I must confess that I had only heard of him from a reference in Martha Nussbaum's work, "Not for Profit," dealing with this same issue, the continuing importance and relevance of a liberal education. I gladly took her recommendation and what a fantastic recommendation it was, this volume is a fantastic history of the American discourse on the proper type of liberal education that has existed since the very founding of the country, and also why this discussion has yielded adiaphoria among some of us in the profession. Beginning with the competing notions of Jefferson and Franklin, one the founder of the University of Virginia and the other the founder of University of Pennsylvania, we see that heated public debate as to what occurs in institutions of higher learning is as old as our founding documents. Starting with Franklin's heated words on the elitism of Harvard (at the time...no further comment) we see these great thinkers' ideas come to life in the mission statements of the institutions they helped to found. Following the Revolutionary period we hear about the competing notions of the use of higher education to elevate African-Americans out of the second-class citizenship under which they were forced to live from Booker T. Washington advocating for more directed economic growth of his community via work-specific training to create advanced workers within specific fields and W.E.B. Du Bois' insistence on a broader, liberal education to not only train people to be better at their current jobs but quite deliberately to display the possibilities of great thinkers and leaders emerging from the aforementioned second-class experience, a notion Frederick Douglass championed throughout his life as well. Jane Addams' work to advance the education of women is discussed thoroughly and falls along similar lines to Du Bois. Where early founders like Benjamin Rush had noted the importance of educating women who at the time were expected to be the primary instructors for their children, Addams took it one step further to embrace the function of a liberal education for women having the same telos as that for her male colleagues (in addition to her work on poverty, suffrage, and world peace of course). The turn into the 20th century brings discussions of Dewey (extensively), Rorty (one of the author's principal instructors) as well as the myriad of discussions and critiques that have plagued this discussion since Allan Bloom's, "The Closing of the American Mind," was published. The tripartite critique that is now rehashed nightly on the so-called "news" that colleges (and liberal education) had become too relativistic and must return to its roots, or that it must be expanded to certify learning in a modern democracy, or more bluntly that it has become irrelevant in a rapidly-increasing technology-based society are all discussed in reference to modern society. Though this is the intellectual dehiscence that keeps on giving for the 24 hours news cycle, its basis in the reality of modern liberal study is tenuous at best. Roth's discussion is admirable for the historical sweep and the sheer amount of philosophical erudition brought to bear. One of his more inspired summations: "As guides, not judges, we can show our students how to engage in the practice of exploring objects, norms, and values that inform diverse cultures. Through this engagement, students will develop the ability to converse with others about shaping the objects, norms, and values that will inform their own lives. They will develop the ability not merely to criticize values but to add value to the organizations in which they participate. They will often reject roads that others have taken, and they will sometimes chart new paths. But guided by a liberal education they will increase their ability to find together ways of living that have meaning and direction. This is why liberal education matters far beyond the university." Another frequent discussion point I hear from people across all political parties and persuasions is that there seems to be a dearth of meaning and purpose in the minds of people in the past couple generations. Many are certain that their education should not be so open as to not train them for anything and they are certain that it should not merely be 4 years of plugging them into some system as if they were merely a tool, not a human being. A liberal education, amidst a growing concern of a lack of meaning in day to day lives of students and adults alike, is more important than ever because it encourages such a search for your own meaning and gives you the tools to apply that to whatever position or job you seek to pay the bills. As Roth concludes: "The mission of liberal learning in higher education should be to teach students to liberate, animate, cooperate, and instigate. Through doubt, imagination, and hard work, students come to understand that they really can reshape themselves and their societies. Liberal education matters because by challenging the forces of conformity it promises to be relevant to our professional, personal, and political lives...When it works, it never ends."

  5. 5 out of 5

    Tait Jensen

    The takeaway: in the 21st century, liberal education can no longer be perceived as the activity of the cloistered scholar. Liberal education must energize the student, creating "habits of action from a spirit of broad inquiry." This book is a delightful, cursory journey into the history of our notions of liberal education, and its associated controversies and critics, since America's founding. Well worth the read if you are an educator, a student, or anyone who still believes that humanistic edu The takeaway: in the 21st century, liberal education can no longer be perceived as the activity of the cloistered scholar. Liberal education must energize the student, creating "habits of action from a spirit of broad inquiry." This book is a delightful, cursory journey into the history of our notions of liberal education, and its associated controversies and critics, since America's founding. Well worth the read if you are an educator, a student, or anyone who still believes that humanistic education is the key to our survival as a species.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Chinook

    This took me awhile to read - I didn't finish it before it expired on Overdrive and then I wasn't driven to pick it up again quickly. It was an interesting book, just perhaps not what I expected. More history of education at the college/university level, less concrete action points in terms of how to do better at teaching at that level right now. I learned a lot from it and I'm glad I pushed through and finished even if at times it felt like a bit of a slog.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Lachinchon

    The title, of course, begs the question: what is a liberal education? Michael Roth is aware of this and devotes the majority of his book to framing, if not answering, the question. The discussion focuses on American pedagogy, with a short but necessary detour to include Berlin “research university” concepts. It is an historical journey, starting with Jefferson and Franklin and continuing to Dewey and, most recently, Richard Rorty. What we might consider as modern issues, such as vocational vs. The title, of course, begs the question: what is a liberal education? Michael Roth is aware of this and devotes the majority of his book to framing, if not answering, the question. The discussion focuses on American pedagogy, with a short but necessary detour to include Berlin “research university” concepts. It is an historical journey, starting with Jefferson and Franklin and continuing to Dewey and, most recently, Richard Rorty. What we might consider as modern issues, such as vocational vs. liberal arts instruction, prescribed vs. elective curricula, open vs. selective enrollment, research vs. teaching, have all been present since the founding of Harvard. Roth does an excellent job of highlighting and discussing the arguments, pro and con. His prose occasionally drifts into dry academic-speak, but mostly it is clear and readable. This is the best structured book I have read in a long time, meaning that the chapters are logically arranged and the discussions are consistent and do not drift. Near its conclusion, the author begins to lighten up a bit, or perhaps just gets more enthusiastic, and he drops a few well-turned phrases (“We no longer have the courage of our lack of conviction.”) and political jabs (“Education should prepare students to become citizens capable of civil disagreement. On the one hand, this view seems like common sense, but these days it also seems utopian given what passes for discourse in our decidedly uncivil public sphere.”). With about a dozen pages left in the book, the author begins his summation, and while all of the previous text did an excellent job of elucidating the issues, Roth basically ends up with a definitional tautology: a liberal education matters because it is an education that matters. Although this conclusion was a bit of letdown, getting there was all the fun. I have rated the book three out of five stars, which should not be taken as a negative rating. I am somewhat stingy in my ratings generally, trying to avoid ratings inflation. (I’m sorry, but books about cute pet behavior and the latest ‘teen’ novel are unlikely to be five-star masterpieces.) In fact, I recommend this book highly, even if it is not a classic or near-classic. It is an informative and insightful basis for discussion and inquiry about the state and future of university education, which is what I suspect the author wants it to be.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    I read this for my "Blow Your Mind Book Group" and while it didn't blow my mind, it prompted some interesting discussions and did a good job of defining liberal education. This book (and I assume most of the educational system) defines liberal education as two-fold: 1) making students critical thinkers and 2) providing knowledge (whether history, philosophy, art or science) that forms a collective culture. [For better or for worse, TV and movies have taken the place of education when it comes to I read this for my "Blow Your Mind Book Group" and while it didn't blow my mind, it prompted some interesting discussions and did a good job of defining liberal education. This book (and I assume most of the educational system) defines liberal education as two-fold: 1) making students critical thinkers and 2) providing knowledge (whether history, philosophy, art or science) that forms a collective culture. [For better or for worse, TV and movies have taken the place of education when it comes to our collective culture. I guess it's a good thing that TV and movies seem to be in their hayday. :) ] One interesting topic that came out of the book group discussion was the idea of Trusted Experts and what their responsibilities are. It is very difficult to be educated enough to realize that you don't actually know anything about a particular subject. People tend to form an opinion (regardless of what the facts might say) based on their favorite Trusted Expert. That approach would be okay if you could only earn the Trusted Expert title by being well respected in your field but when anyone can blog about their opinions, it becomes difficult to figure out who you can trust to be an expert, especially when they really do have those nice letters before or after their name (looking at you Doctor Oz). People mascaraing as experts can be so incredibly damaging and I believe that when you present yourself as an expert, you need to be held to a very high standard to ensure that you are presenting provable facts. No idea how to actually do anything about that though, oh well. 4 for enjoyability (not a word according to Chrome's spell check but I don't care!) 4 for writing style

  9. 5 out of 5

    Scott Haraburda

    Goodreads First Reads Giveaway Book. ------------------------------------ Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Matters is a short-book (less than 200 pages) with notes and an index that briefly delves into the debates involving the importance of liberal education. The author, Michael S. Roth, president of the Wesleyan University, describes a diverse historical account of American education, providing the reader both the strengths and weaknesses of different thoughts. Since the founding of t Goodreads First Reads Giveaway Book. ------------------------------------ Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Matters is a short-book (less than 200 pages) with notes and an index that briefly delves into the debates involving the importance of liberal education. The author, Michael S. Roth, president of the Wesleyan University, describes a diverse historical account of American education, providing the reader both the strengths and weaknesses of different thoughts. Since the founding of the United States several hundred years ago, American education was instrumental into its international growth. Students from around the globe flock to our country since highly ranked schools are found here, making American higher education the envy of the world. Yet, the author cautions us that important to our future besides technological breakthroughs and preparing Americans for jobs is that we need people with the knowledge and abilities to cultivate our individual freedoms, promote civic virtue, and instill hope for our future. Not a small task for any educational curriculum. Missing from this book, unfortunately, are the words of those ancient intellectual giants that shaped Western Civilization over the course of several millennia, such as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. These had much to do with the importance of education and seeking truth, perhaps more than the author’s discussion of Thomas Jefferson, W.E.B. Du Bois, Jane Addams, Booker T. Washington, and John Dewey. Beyond the University is a valuable book in one’s library, if only that it provides an accessible account of some the challenges facing higher education today.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Claire

    I received Beyond the University as part of a Goodreads giveaway. As president (and an alum) of Wesleyan University, Michael Roth highlights the history, current state of, and critiques of a liberal arts education, while making a case for its importance in creating a society of curious, aware, lifelong learners. As an alum of a liberal arts university, I don't really have to be sold on the merits of such an education, so this read was preaching to the choir, so to speak. For traditional students, I received Beyond the University as part of a Goodreads giveaway. As president (and an alum) of Wesleyan University, Michael Roth highlights the history, current state of, and critiques of a liberal arts education, while making a case for its importance in creating a society of curious, aware, lifelong learners. As an alum of a liberal arts university, I don't really have to be sold on the merits of such an education, so this read was preaching to the choir, so to speak. For traditional students, college comes at the short but unique time in which they're not children but also not quite adults. I enjoyed the layout of the book; the theme of each of the four sections was clear and succinct, with the entire book rounding out at about 200 pages. The narrative is serviceable but not super-engaging--there's a lot of history (which, as a former history major, I enjoyed) and discussion of educational politics (also important to the subject at hands), but at times it seemed to lack a certain warmth and passion, but maybe that's just me. Roth is a guy that clearly knows his stuff and Wesleyan is lucky to have him.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Adina Lav

    This is a must-read for anyone wishing to understand the connection between a well educated, engaged electorate and a democratic republic. And how the republic falls apart without that well educated, engaged electorate.

  12. 5 out of 5

    John

    This book is an excellent survey of the evolution of "liberal" education--education that broadens and sharpens the mind, as opposed to vocational training. The author advocates strongly that our colleges should (and often do) expose students to challenging ideas, so that they can use critical thinking skills to enrich their own lives, and to move our society in the right direction. Unfortunately, the book is written in the kind of bloated, abstruse language that critics of our universities seize This book is an excellent survey of the evolution of "liberal" education--education that broadens and sharpens the mind, as opposed to vocational training. The author advocates strongly that our colleges should (and often do) expose students to challenging ideas, so that they can use critical thinking skills to enrich their own lives, and to move our society in the right direction. Unfortunately, the book is written in the kind of bloated, abstruse language that critics of our universities seize upon as proof that little of value gets taught. I had to start this book four or five times to get through it. Here's a typical sentence: "Current thinking in the humanities is also good at showing the contextualization of norms, whether the context is generated by an anthropological, historical, or formal disciplinary matrix." Huh? Too bad the author's liberal education did not include a liberal does of Strunk and White's Elements of Style.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Eric Jensen

    This is an interesting and well-written analysis of the history of liberal education in the United States. It's striking how many of the current debates about the role of college education (e.g. how much should it be about job training vs. shaping citizens for a democratic society) have been part of higher ed right from the start. (So perhaps we shouldn't expect them to be resolved any time soon!) I enjoyed learning more of this history. My only disappointment was that Roth's concluding chapter This is an interesting and well-written analysis of the history of liberal education in the United States. It's striking how many of the current debates about the role of college education (e.g. how much should it be about job training vs. shaping citizens for a democratic society) have been part of higher ed right from the start. (So perhaps we shouldn't expect them to be resolved any time soon!) I enjoyed learning more of this history. My only disappointment was that Roth's concluding chapter on the challenges currently facing higher ed (and public perception of the humanities in particular) seemed a little thin. Roth is a thoughtful and engaging writer, and I would have appreciated more of his analysis of the current situation. Still, if you want to know how we got to where we are today, Roth is a good guide to the philosophical underpinnings (while Martin Lazerson does a nice job with some of the economic shifts that have also played a role).

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jason Jordan

    Though I agree with Roth's premise that liberal education matters in the sense that the university's primary goal should be to educate people so they can become more knowledgeable and, in turn, contribute to society in positive respects, I'm not convinced that his arguments are compelling enough to persuade someone whose view of the university is that it should merely serve as a career training ground. Yes, career training is part of it, but that shouldn't take precedence over other factors such Though I agree with Roth's premise that liberal education matters in the sense that the university's primary goal should be to educate people so they can become more knowledgeable and, in turn, contribute to society in positive respects, I'm not convinced that his arguments are compelling enough to persuade someone whose view of the university is that it should merely serve as a career training ground. Yes, career training is part of it, but that shouldn't take precedence over other factors such as gaining knowledge, meeting new people, navigating different social situations, becoming (somewhat) self-sufficient, and other aspects of university life that can be instrumental in one's success. A dry, informative read--especially if one is interested in the history of the American university system. Now about the phoned-in cover art...

  15. 4 out of 5

    Alan

    I thought this was the best of the recent crop on post-secondary education. I took Roth's Coursera course on "The Modern and Post Modern" and was very impressed with his presentation and the content. This particular book does build through a good history of higher education as other reviewers noted and I thought it appropriate. It made clear the non-elitist roots, and the "freeing" or liberating nature of the education, not a specific tie to humanities or a particular canon. The opposition is co I thought this was the best of the recent crop on post-secondary education. I took Roth's Coursera course on "The Modern and Post Modern" and was very impressed with his presentation and the content. This particular book does build through a good history of higher education as other reviewers noted and I thought it appropriate. It made clear the non-elitist roots, and the "freeing" or liberating nature of the education, not a specific tie to humanities or a particular canon. The opposition is conformity versus liberating, not arts vs. science. Science and math is properly part of liberal education if properly taught and studied.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Nora Devlin

    I enjoyed this book. It was informative and interesting. The style of writing was engaging. However, splitting this into 4 chapters with no section headings was torture for the reader. What kind of person would think this is a one sitting (or even 4 sitting) read!?! Please be kind to your readers. That is really my main critique. As someone interested in the field but still new to the details, I do not have an in-depth critique at this time but I felt it was a nice introduction to the history of I enjoyed this book. It was informative and interesting. The style of writing was engaging. However, splitting this into 4 chapters with no section headings was torture for the reader. What kind of person would think this is a one sitting (or even 4 sitting) read!?! Please be kind to your readers. That is really my main critique. As someone interested in the field but still new to the details, I do not have an in-depth critique at this time but I felt it was a nice introduction to the history of US higher Ed system and offered nice insight into how the system might be improved or made more robust. Just next time, please have headings and sections.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Penny

    "If we educators saw ourselves more often as explorers of the normative rather than as critics of normativity, we would have a better chance to reconnect our intellectual work to broader currents in public culture" (p. 186). Critical thinking is all well and good, according to Roth, but we shouldn't get so fixated on it that we lose our ability to take other perspectives and learn from those with whom we disagree. This openness is what we need for ourselves and what we need to guide our students "If we educators saw ourselves more often as explorers of the normative rather than as critics of normativity, we would have a better chance to reconnect our intellectual work to broader currents in public culture" (p. 186). Critical thinking is all well and good, according to Roth, but we shouldn't get so fixated on it that we lose our ability to take other perspectives and learn from those with whom we disagree. This openness is what we need for ourselves and what we need to guide our students to develop if we want to keep liberal education relevant and vital.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Maria Catherino

    I wish this had been required in my American Literature course. The debate over vocational vs liberal education is nothing new, the arguments remain virtually unchanged since the United States were founded. This book gives a nice concise history of liberal education in the United States and addresses different philosophies through the ages about what the purpose of an education truly is.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    A really thought-provoking discussion challenging us to consider where we really want to be with higher education. Roth surveys US thinkers to explore how this has developed and draw out the important considerations for the future, without laying down a particular course. Although based on US HE, there is plenty here to challenge educational thinking in non-US countries.

  20. 4 out of 5

    David Bristol

    For those like me who value their liberal arts education Roth has provided both a history of such a college curriculum in the the U.S. and an argument in its defense. I am still pessimistic however given the pressures facing liberal arts colleges particularly the smaller schools.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Doug

    This was a Goodreads give away. The author explores the development of liberal arts education. It is a degree intended to provide a mental framework for further intellectual development. This book is well written and informative.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Nils

    A rousing defense of the social and moral value of a well-rounded education designed to inculcate critical thinking. Purely instrumental views of education, that in effect reduce intellectual development to the status of a vocation like plumbing, is foolish.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Donald

    This is a fine book if you are looking for an overview of the history of liberal education in America. His arguments about preserving such education today did not strike me as particularly creative or energizing, but maybe that's the point.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

    My co-worker and I were discussing the merits of reading fiction. He said he only reads non-fiction, what's the point of novels? This book articulates what I was too dumbfounded to say.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Leslye

    My son will attend a Liberal Arts college and my husband is an educator so this book was very good for me.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Zivile

    A very good review of American University system, its history and attempts, failures and advantages. After this read you might think twice before "investing" in some fancy university

  27. 4 out of 5

    Brittany Laccetti

    I had to read this book for a class. I thought it was really dry and not very exciting. Not the type of book I would have picked up to read by myself.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Brad Hayes

    So good, it deserves a second read.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Harold

    I read this for a board I am on. Or should I say bored.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Mills College Library

    370.112 R8456 2014

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