Cory Leonard

Value Added for Liberal Arts: Plumbing for a Thoughtful Life

In career on June 23, 2013 at 1:35 pm

A new report from the American Academy of Sciences makes the case, although not passionately enough for David Brooks, a committee member, for the liberal arts and humanities as an essential part of an education.  The challenge?  Courses and faculty are moving away from the big questions of beauty, truth, and goodness for aspects of multiculturalism, intense specialization, and other intellectual trends.  The former, Brooks asserts, has a lifelong impact on students.

Brooks observes:

Somewhere along the way, many people in the humanities lost faith in this uplifting mission. The humanities turned from an inward to an outward focus. They were less about the old notions of truth, beauty and goodness and more about political and social categories like race, class and gender. Liberal arts professors grew more moralistic when talking about politics but more tentative about private morality because they didn’t want to offend anybody.

To the earnest 19-year-old with lofty dreams of self-understanding and moral greatness, the humanities in this guise were bound to seem less consequential and more boring…

The report is important, and you should read it. It focuses not only on the external goods the humanities can produce (creative thinking, good writing), but also the internal transformation (spiritual depth, personal integrity). It does lack some missionary zeal that hit me powerfully as a college freshman when the humanities were in better shape.

via NYT, The Humanist Vocation.

None of this is new for anyone who follows the issue, as Scott Sprenger, associate dean of humanities at BYU, does, where he blogs on the national debate that has led to the abandonment of French programs, career issues for students, and the shape of the overall discourse.

 

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