Liberal education in crisis? Rejoinder by Graber

On the Horizon

ISSN: 1074-8121

Article publication date: 4 February 2014



Graber, R.B. (2014), "Liberal education in crisis? Rejoinder by Graber", On the Horizon, Vol. 22 No. 1.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Liberal education in crisis? Rejoinder by Graber

Article Type: Authors' Rejoinders From: On the Horizon, Volume 22, Issue 1

I want to thank Pollard, Bussey, Anderson, Scott, and Conrad for their comments on my essay (Graber, 2014). Anderson’s (2014, p. 87) remarks linking it to rites of passage are very much on target. In Arnold van Gennep’s classic analysis, a rite of passage begins with rites of separation. Actual physical removal from life as the initiate has known it is quite crucial to the whole experience. From this perspective, the fears expressed by some of our authors that colleges and universities are becoming irrelevant seem to me less than entirely warranted. I recently overheard a man telling a friend that though his daughter was attending a local university, she was living not at home but in a dorm. "We wanted her to have the ‘college experience,’" he explained. Students scoring high in scholastic aptitude typically leave not only their childhood home but their community as well, journeying a median distance of 170 miles (Marklein, cited in Graber, 2014, p. 15). Being "shipped out" is an important precursor to being well and truly "shaken up."

Bussey (2014, p. 81) wonders about the possible significance of the apparent age, gender, and ethnic composition of the eleven contributors. As I wrote to him recently (e-mail of November 1):

Greetings! As I copy-edit your spirited comment, I am amused – and a little concerned – at your "ouch!" comment about the age/racial/gender composition of our contributors. ((Another contributor) raised this issue with me several weeks ago.) While I admit to having made no effort to recruit youth, I did go a bit out of my way to attract female contributors; but to no avail. Perhaps I should have worked yet harder at that. As for race, I was unaware, and remain unconvinced, that we are all "white." Unable to prove my own ancestry more than three generations back, and ever darker of complexion with the passing years, I self-identify as "White" or – worse because it sounds scientific – "Caucasian" only with a very bad conscience as an anthropologist. Affirmative-action programs are the only justification I know of for thus perpetuating racist fallacies; I am not sure the price is worth paying. Thus I remain unconvinced [indeed, unsure what it would even mean to say] that we are all 11 "white," even if we all self-identify as such. By the best current evidence, we humans are all [ultimately] of African ancestry.

So while I would have preferred greater apparent diversity, I suspected, on general anthropological grounds, that we eleven were less homogeneous than Bussey seemed to assume. As if to confirm my hypothesis, on November 9 I received e-mail from Conrad containing the personal account appearing in his rejoinder herein (Conrad, 2014, p. 95).

I would only add, by way of conclusion, that I am pleased to have my essay associated by Scott (2014, p. 89) with his elegant, euphonious, and inspiring formulation of liberal education’s task: engendering "curators of the past," "critics of the present," and "creators of the future."

Rejoinder by Robert Bates Graber, Professor Emeritus of Anthropology, Department of Society and Environment, Truman State University, Kirksville, Missouri, USA.


Anderson, G. (2014), "Comment: Liberal education in crisis?", On the Horizon, Vol. 22 No. 1, pp. 87–89

Bussey, M. (2014), "Comment: Liberal education in crisis?", On the Horizon, Vol. 22 No. 1, pp. 81–87

Conrad, L. (2014), "Rejoinder: Liberal education in crisis?", On the Horizon, Vol. 22 No. 1, pp. 95–96

Graber, R. (2014), "Why is liberal education so incoherent? An anthropological perspective", On the Horizon, Vol. 22 No. 1, pp. 10–18

Scott, R. (2014), "Comment: Liberal education in crisis?", On the Horizon, Vol. 22 No. 1, pp. 89–91

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