1. Essentials of liberal arts

  1. What are the essential components of a quality liberal arts education, and how can we ensure that we remain, first and foremost, a first-rate liberal arts college in the midst of change?

Author: Dan Ryan

I'm currently an Academic Program Director at MinervaProject.com. I've been a professor at University of Toronto, University of Southern California, and Mills College teaching things like human centered design, computational thinking, modeling for policy sciences, and social theory. I'm driven by the desire to figure out how to teach twice as many twice as well twice as easily.

2 thoughts on “1. Essentials of liberal arts”

  1. I like to think of this in terms of a question like “At what point would it stop being a liberal arts education?” This makes me imagine taking away various features and adding features not currently here. One thing this leads me to is that it is more about how I teach the stuff I teach than about whether particular things are present or absent in the institution as a whole. It is after all a bit of a stretch to say that a student gets a different kind of education because there is a philosophy department if s/he in fact never takes a philosophy course. Yes, there is the fact that the option was there and that s/he might have friends who take a philosophy course, but I'm not persuaded the effect would be overwhelmingly strong. But when I teach research methods or statistics or mathematical modeling, Aristotle manages to come up, existentialism may make an appearance, and the enlightenment gets some air time.

  2. Having spent the last several weeks reading about the evolution of higher education in the US, I think the question is stale. I don't think we should think in terms of “liberal arts” but in terms of what we think a postsecondary education should look like in the 21st century. Learning to think in a host of different ways, learning how to go on learning when you're no longer in school, being exposed to different forms of human expression in a thoughtful way, etc., etc., would be the start of my list. If this lines up with some definition of a “liberal arts education” great. If not, that doesn't really matter.

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