Magazine article Liberal Education

President's Message

Magazine article Liberal Education

President's Message

Article excerpt

The academy has always insisted that the liberal arts play an integral rote in an education of lasting value. But, ever larger numbers of students now arrive on campus without much sense of the kinds of learning that will matter to them in the long run, and the great majority see their studies mainly as career training, a gateway to the next job.

In this context, too many students see the liberal arts-frequently encountered only in the form of vaguely defined general education "distribution" requirements-as largely irrelevant. We face a troubling situation in which those who have the most to gain from the horizon-expanding effects of the liberal arts frequently understand the benefits of a liberal education the least.

Yet, the demand for forms of learning recognizably "liberal" grows ever more insistent. Business and civic leaders alike call for graduates who can think contextually and deploy sophisticated forms of information retrieval and analysis, and whose intellectual capacities enable them to engage unscripted questions and to embrace revolutionary changes fueled by science and technology. There is also renewed concern with graduates' readiness to address civic, intercultural, and equity dilemmas, both at home and in the world community. The educational community has not ignored its students' need to meet higher standards of intellectual engagement and accomplishment. There is an active-though fragmented--educational reform movement under way, largely centered in general education, but increasingly influencing departmental programs. Colleges and universities are clarifying their goals for student learning and experimenting with new pedagogies, often technologysupported, to involve students in critical and creative analyses. Accreditation associations, both regional and specialized, are emphasizing accountability for student outcomes. There are also nascent efforts to better align the first two years of college with the anticipated outcomes of the school reform and standards movements.

What is lacking, however, is a concerted effort across all these reforms to create both a common understanding of what matters in college-level learning and coordinated action to ensure that all students experience a liberal education that develops their talents, expands their cultural horizons, and prepares them to navigate the world they inherit.

Americans need a new educational compass. The time is right for a national organization representing the full spectrum of colleges and universities to take the lead in articulating a new vision and a new practice for liberal arts education that takes account of broad-based educational changes already occurring.

AACM sets "Greater Expectations" for all students' achievement

In response to both the promise and the problems of this new era, AAC&U is launching a major signature initiative focused on college-level learning. Through the Greater Expectations initiative, which is generously supported by an initial challenge grant from The Pew Charitable Trusts, AAC&U will work with campuses to systematically define outcomes, discover strategies, and deploy resources to deepen the quality of undergraduate student achievement. The Greater Expectations initiative will seek, above all, to make liberal learning a resource for all college students and for a democratic society with global responsibilities.

Through Greater Expectations, AAC&U will convene a national panel of leaders in education, government, business, and community action to articulate a statement of essential aims and purposes for twenty-first century college-level study. …

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