This is an inception post because I’m commenting on a commentary. I feel like I’m lost in a series of Russian nesting dolls, but I’ll do my best. The article to which I’m responding is a review/commentary on a book called Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Matters (Michael S. Roth). The piece itself, written by Christopher B. Nelson, can be found here.
It’s difficult to respond to this article because of the degree of removal that exists; I’ve never read the book about which Nelson is writing, so I’m at a disadvantage here. The one thing I was able to get out of it was the idea that each liberal arts school has its own blend of liberal arts education, based on two “threads” of education: the skeptical and the reverential. The skeptical, in its purest form, “free[s] the mind to investigate the truth about things physical, intellectual and spiritual.” In contrast, the reverential puts emphasis on “learning to participate in the culture, to appreciate its monuments and to create new monuments inspired by the old.”
Nelson (and I’m assuming Roth as well) believes that each liberal arts school around the country employs its own unique mix of these two trains of thought as well as a third tenet, which concerns itself with economic viability of the information taught. I believe that both threads are important to today’s world; while it’s great to overtly teach students about the society in which they live, individual-based instruction is just as viable because, as we sometimes forget, society is a collection of individuals, each with their own views and opinions. If we can open up the mind on an individual level, then we can more easily become a more tolerant, more inquiring society.