AAUP and AAC&U Issue Statement in Defense of Liberal Arts Education


“We believe that institutions of higher education, if they are truly to serve as institutions of higher education, should provide more than narrow vocational training and should seek to enhance students’ capacities for lifelong learning”

That is an excerpt from a joint statement on the value of a liberal arts education issued by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) and the Association of American Colleges & Universities (AAC&U).

The statement, covered in today’s editions of Inside Higher Ed and The Chronicle of Higher Education, takes issue with the mainstream perception of the liberal arts:

In recent years, the disciplines of the liberal arts, once universally regarded as central to the intellectual life of the university, have been steadily moved to the periphery and increasingly threatened—by some administrators, elected officials, journalists, and parents of college-age children. The study of the history of human societies and forms of human expression is now too often construed as frivolous, and several colleges and universities have recently announced the wholesale elimination of liberal arts departments. Politicians have proposed linking tuition to the alleged market value of given majors. Students majoring in literature, art, philosophy, and history are routinely considered unemployable in the technology and information economy, despite the fact that employers in that economy strenuously argue that liberal arts majors make great tech-sector workers precisely because they are trained to think critically and creatively, and to adapt to unforeseen circumstances.

The associations urge resisting moves that would have the effect of denying all but the elite an opportunity for a liberal arts education:

The disciplines of the liberal arts… foster intellectual curiosity about questions that will never be definitively settled—questions about justice, about community, about politics and culture, about difference in every sense of the word. All college students and not solely a privileged few should have opportunities to address such questions as a critical part of their educational experience. And the disciplines of the liberal arts are central to the ideal of academic freedom, as well, because the liberal arts, by their nature, require free rein to pursue truth wherever it may lead. As a result, they provide an intellectual bulwark for academic freedom.

The whole statement is here.

Victor Vasarely, “Black Circle”

 

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