Liberal Education in Crisis? Rejoinder by Jennings

On the Horizon

ISSN: 1074-8121

Article publication date: 4 February 2014



Jennings, W.B. (2014), "Liberal Education in Crisis? Rejoinder by Jennings", On the Horizon, Vol. 22 No. 1.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Liberal Education in Crisis? Rejoinder by Jennings

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

Reading through the essays and comments affords quite an intellectual tour de force. I am left with two questions:

1. What practical, real-world outcomes emerge from the liberal arts as proposed by these mostly supportive exponents?

2. What will happen to the liberal arts given this high-level analysis?

I am not much impressed with the position of knowledge for knowledge’s sake when it is has to be funded by the rest of us. There are all kinds of arcane fields where people come together to share concepts and practices. They exist for the love of their dreams or because society finds sufficient practical value to fund the practitioners and theoreticians.

I could not help thinking of BOMSAT, an acronym describing how most societal decisions have been made by Bald Old Men Sitting Around a Table. Many of those political and societal decisions perpetuated racism, classism, and sexism and, sadly, to some extent still do, despite the usual high level of education possessed by individuals in power groups. In this instance we have intellectual philosophers, if you will, for the most part arguing for the continuation of liberal-arts programs without the need for clearly stated outcomes.

I can live with Scott’s position of "the three fundamentals of tertiary education: curator of the past, creator of the future, and critic of the present, asking why and why not." These significant outcomes support a thoughtful and reflective society. I just do not see such nicely described expectations of liberal-arts programs followed by a careful analysis of their achievement by graduates in society. I do not grant an exemption in checking for results from the liberal arts any more than for vocational tracks, where failure to produce kills the program - if not in actuality, then by reputation.

Bottom line: most education levels and programs need to undergo scrutiny for results in order to continue as part of required schooling of the young just as good vocational programs now do. The knowledge society with its enormous capacity for learning anything, anytime, anywhere changes the delivery of instruction. Couple that with a greater understanding of deep, enduring learning which proceeds primarily from challenging experiences whether physical or mental, and whether inside or outside of classroom walls. I do grant space for "electives" so that individual proclivities can flourish. And I support liberal-arts programs for lifelong learning, particularly for mature adults who wish to explore meaning, and have the leisure time to do so.

Rejoinder by Wayne B. Jennings, Director of The Institute for Learning and Teaching, Saint Paul, Minnesota, USA.

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