In Defense of a Liberal Education
Book

In Defense of a Liberal Education

W.W. Norton, 2015 more...

Editorial Rating

9

Qualities

  • Innovative

Recommendation

Commentator Fareed Zakaria packs wisdom and value into this slim volume. Citing history, economics and studies of happiness, he lays out an irresistible argument in support of the liberal arts as central to a college education and an informed society. In Socratic style, Zakaria raises questions that provoke you to think deeply about the answers. getAbstract suggests that parents, students, educators, politicians, policy makers and those interested in education – and in the founding principles and future of the United States – will want to read and discuss this compelling argument.

Summary

Attack on the Liberal Arts

The classic liberal education, once a hallmark of the United States’ college and university system – as opposed to those in Britain, Germany and almost all other nations – is now under attack. American students used to pursue a general education. Today, students in the US and elsewhere attend college primarily to learn a vocation and gain job-ready skills.

Commentator Fareed Zakaria admired the American system from afar during his upbringing in India. There, parents, the government and teachers lionize technology, engineering and science. Few young Indians consider a liberal arts education and, if they do, their parents try to dissuade them. Politicians and parents in the US increasingly argue that any course of study that fails to teach a student a marketable skill is a waste of time and money.

Education and the Liberal Arts

Education – beyond learning the skills to hunt or soldier – emerged with the advent of democracy in Greece about 2,500 years ago. Greek elders believed free citizens needed knowledge to participate in a democratic society.

Charles Eliot, who led Harvard University for much of the late 19th century...

About the Author

Fareed Zakaria graduated from Yale with a degree in the liberal arts. He is a commentator on CNN on Sunday mornings.


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