As many students are starting college classes this week, I thought it would be good to share an interesting article that was written by Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus, authors of the book, Higher Education? The article was in a recent edition of The Dallas Morning News and focused on the importance of reclaiming liberal arts in colleges.
In doing the research for the book the authors discovered that liberal arts courses have been downsized in most universitites and colleges or they have been altered, “both in format and in function.” While the course titles may be the same as they have been for years, what the course entails “Is no longer attuned to undergraduates looking for a broader and deeper understanding of the world.”
Hacker and Dreifus cited the course description from the Yale catalog for a class that deals with how disabilities are depicted in fiction: “We will examine how characters serve as figures of otherness, transcendence, physicality or abjection. Late may come examination questions on regulative discourse, performativity and frameworks of intelligibility.”
The authors believe that classes like that “suggest that professors are using the curriculum as their personal playground.” Some professors are structuring classes around topics of their current research, and that approach seems to benefit the professor more than the students.
When I studied psychology, sociology and history, which are all classes in liberal arts, we focused on broader aspects of human behavior such as good and evil, morality, ethics, and social justice. Those are the areas that we needed an understanding of as we prepared to step out of the classrooms and into the big bad world as adults. How could we act ethically if we didn’t know what ethics entails? How could we work toward social justice and equality if we didn’t have a clue what the problems are? And, gosh, we did have a sense of good and evil and right and wrong, and tried to stay on the right side of both.
What do you think? Is it time that colleges brought back a stronger liberal arts program?