Dan Kaufman (see his webzine, the Electric Agora) and I had another of our conversations over at MeaningofLife.tv, this time centering on Dan’s recently articulated skepticism about ongoing defenses of the concept of a liberal arts education in college. Here is his original article, provocatively entitled “On Some Common Rationales for Liberal Education (and why they aren’t very good).”
The video begins with Dan properly summarizing his main points (remember, while listening to him, that he is not a scientistically inclined fellow, nor is he going after the liberal arts from a conservative political standpoint; indeed, he teaches philosophy in a liberal arts school).
Then it’s my turn to defend the concept of a liberal arts education, not just from a pragmatic perspective, but also from the point of view of a broader, and I think as meaningful as ever, take on why we bother educating people in a democracy in the first place.
Dan and I then get into a constructive discussion of the question of whether a liberal arts education makes students better citizens (yes, for me; no, for Dan). And that eventually got us into a delicate examination of the recent series of campus protests about equality, safe spaces, and microaggressions.
We end with a conversation about valuing the liberal arts for their own sake (which Dan thinks is the only way, while I suggest it is an additional one), and with my articulation of why I think the humanities are “dangerous” (and I mean this in the most positive way possible!).