A Global Perspective in Uncertain Times: Don't Decry America's Ability to Change the World for the Better; Students Are Meeting That Challenge. (Viewpoint)

Article excerpt

Our global community has faced increasingly menacing and debilitating challenges in recent months and years: international terrorism, civil wars, genocide, economic distress, a depleted environment, overpopulation, starvation, poverty, racism, and other problems which have tested our humanity.

Now, the world is waiting for our reply. The world wants to know how many people we can send who, in the words of Cecil Rhodes, are "willing to fight the world's fight." This "fight" is not a military offensive but a collective effort more far-reaching than any incursion, past or present.

These people we send must be extraordinary. They must possess the ability to be self-critical, to reach beyond their own well-being, to make informed decisions and to solve difficult problems. They will be people who deeply desire to reply to the world's greatest dilemmas and to create a just and more enlightened society. Their legacy will be a more peaceful world, a cleaner planet, and a healthier society. Indeed, there will be food to go around, and everyone will have some dignity in his or her life.

Far too many people believe that my thoughts are Utopian. The world, for them, is a salvage operation. If that were the case, there would be no place for institutions of higher learning and, certainly, no compelling reason to continue supporting the existence of the nation's liberal arts colleges where global service and learning are paramount. Getting complex issues, and, in turn, the world, into clear focus often requires a transformative experience--one that inspires and nurtures a more enlightened global perspective.

For most agents of global change, the catalyst often has been some life-altering, unique, cross cultural endeavor that propagates a broader, more lucid vision of the complex world in which we live. Such a transformation often begins in the liberal arts classroom.

Those who will likely help our world community solve its most pressing problems will draw information and inspiration from broad-based study of any number of disciplines, including political science, history, philosophy, economics, sociology, mathematics, biology, ethics, and religion, just to name a few. While the finest major universities in America have been superbly polishing the research component of individualized fields of study, the nation's liberal arts colleges continue to focus on the broad development of the whole person. …

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