[ Read eBook ] In Defense of a Liberal EducationAuthor Fareed Zakaria – Sharkmotorcyclehelmets.co.uk


The Liberal Arts Are Under Attack The Governors Of Florida, Texas, And North Carolina Have All Pledged That They Will Not Spend Taxpayer Money Subsidizing The Liberal Arts, And They Seem To Have An Unlikely Ally In President Obama While At A General Electric Plant In Early , Obama Remarked, I Promise You, Folks Can Make A Lot , Potentially, With Skilled Manufacturing Or The Trades Than They Might With An Art History Degree These Messages Are Hitting Home Majors Like English And History, Once Very Popular And Highly Respected, Are In Steep Decline I Get It, Writes Fareed Zakaria, Recalling The Atmosphere In India Where He Grew Up, Which Was Even Obsessed With Getting A Skills Based Education However, The CNN Host And Best Selling Author Explains Why This Widely Held View Is Mistaken And ShortsightedZakaria Eloquently Expounds On The Virtues Of A Liberal Arts Education How To Write Clearly, How To Express Yourself Convincingly, And How To Think Analytically He Turns Our Leaders Vocational Argument On Its Head American Routine Manufacturing Jobs Continue To Get Automated Or Outsourced, And Specific Vocational Knowledge Is Often Outdated Within A Few Years Engineering Is A Great Profession, But Key Value Added Skills You Will Also Need Are Creativity, Lateral Thinking, Design, Communication, Storytelling, And, Than Anything, The Ability To Continually Learn And Enjoy Learning Precisely The Gifts Of A Liberal EducationZakaria Argues That Technology Is Transforming Education, Opening Up Access To The Best Courses And Classes In A Vast Variety Of Subjects For Millions Around The World We Are At The Dawn Of The Greatest Expansion Of The Idea Of A Liberal Education In Human History


10 thoughts on “In Defense of a Liberal Education

  1. says:

    This isn t a long read or a difficult read but I found myself lingering over various parts of Zakaria s arguments concerning the value of the liberal arts and the liberal education.There are several elements to this book and they are not always handled separately and distinctly.First there is Zakaria s own educational biography, or how he came from India to study in the USA.There is enough included to allow us to think about all the other foreign students that have found our higher education attractive and what they have contributed to us by coming here.Second, there are a lot of facts and figures about our education and how it compares to other countries This is a necessary foundation for discussing the liberal education Zakaria does not seem to cherry pick what he presents to us.Finally, there are his arguments about the value of a liberal education Chief among those is that this type of education has made an undervalued contribution to the USA s creativity and willingness to explore that vocationally oriented programs omit.Some of the points that I found resonated with my own observations and experiences He doesn t believe that the liberal education is for everybody It is only that those who desire to pursue less specifically vocational degrees should be allowed to do so.He avoids a common clich by not stating that a liberal education teaches you to think Though he points out that one of the key strengths of such an education is that it teaches you to how write, and that makes you think He quotes Bertrand Russell on the difference between science and philosophy Science is what we know, and philosophy is what we don t know This leads to his point that the search for knowledge has provided humankind with power.He points out that when he was going to school there were big ideological debates, such as the one pitting capitalism against communism Those do not resonate with today s students He leaves us with some questions in this present world of technology, globalization and capitalism about their willingness to focus on virtue And, if nothing else, the liberal education is about raising questions and considering consequences.


  2. says:

    Fareed Zakaria has written this very short book in support of a liberal education, ie a college education inclusive of humanities, arts, mathematics and science, and not specifically vocationally or skill oriented.I have long strongly supported the idea of a liberal education Such an education serves at least three functions, and I deliberately list these in no particular order 1 It forms the basis for an informed citizenry, without which a democracy cannot endure In order to be an informed citizen, one must be able to understand events in the light of history, values, culture over time, and much else that comes primarily from immersion in the humanities One must also have the broad base of knowledge that comes from exposure to science and mathematics One must be able to think critically, choose wisely, and be creative in one s response to unforeseen events and circumstances.2 It forms a critical basis for vocational choice and flexibility in that it fosters critical thinking, the ability to be a self educating individual over a lifespan, and the ability continually to learn new skills and adapt them to new situations.3 It enables one to be exposed to and appreciative of all aspects of the human experience, to know and evaluate such experience, to develop wisdom It is personally enriching even as it causes one to appreciate difference and diversity among people.Zakaria s first chapter is a throw away, a brief history of his own background in India and America It does little to establish the basis of his argument Somewhat interesting, it was nonetheless not important to his argument as a whole.His second chapter is a brief and sometimes superficial overview of the history of liberal education, beginning with the ancient Greeks and continuing through the establishment of a joint educational venture between his alma mater, Yale, and the University of Singapore The chapter seems slightly disorganized and might be confusing to anyone not fully conversant in the concepts of liberal education over time and today I found it added little that was new to my knowledge or appreciation.In his third chapter, the strongest so far Zakaria argues that a liberal education teaches one to read, to write, and to think, to think flexibly and creatively, and to speak well, in a clear and organized way The mere memorizing of facts or information does not do this Further, information is increasing available at our fingertips, on the computer in from of us, whereas what we do with this information, how we evaluate and interpret it, how we use it, are the very stuff of liberal education Much of this learning takes place face to face, in the seminar room, over the dinner table with fellow students, in informal settings day and night It is in this chapter, it seems to me, that Zakaria comes closest to the heart and soul of a liberal education, and it is hard to appreciate its value and importance if one has not experienced it for oneself.Chapter Four addresses the issue of elite education, education geared toward or available primarily to the brightest, the most affluent, the most prepared students Higher education has always been directed toward a minority of the population even Franklin and Jefferson acknowledged that but educational costs, among other things, have changed the spectrum of who is able to take advantage of a liberal education Zakaria addresses some of these issues, as well as the rise in MOOCs Massive Open Online Courses and how they may in the years ahead influence the educational experience.In Chapter Five, Knowledge and Power, Zakaria basically argues for what Karl Popper called an Open Society although he does not thus phrase his argument , and he implicitly suggests that the principles of a liberal education lie at the root of such a society It is an interesting chapter, the assertions upon which it is based being generally convincing, but the author does not articulate a consistent linkage between liberal education and the nature of the society he extols, although he may be leaving it to the reader to do so I believe that such a linkage does exist.In his final chapter, In Defense of Today s Youth, the author takes on those who accuse today s college students of being everything they themselves are not But, Zakaria claims, times have changed, circumstances have altered, and young people do indeed still search for moral values, a meaning for life, a life of significance The chapter is loose, somewhat anecdotal, generally positive, and not obviously entirely focused on the issue at hand, Zakaria s reason for writing the book.I found Zakaria s book and arguments in favor of a liberal education too cursory to be of benefit to those conversant with and well read in the controversies involving this important issue, too superficial and anecdotal to be of value to those not previously having given thought to this issue who are unlikely to be interested to reading this book anyway , and insufficient to convince those opposed to a liberal education to alter their minds or biases In short, there was not much here that was new or insightful I had hoped for , but perhaps there is not much new to be said He does give appropriate attention to the benefits that a liberal education provides in enlarging and broadening the vision and perspective of those who have experienced it, an important factor in the living of a good, full, perceptive, productive, and altruistic life In my mind that in itself than justifies it But I don t think this book will convince those who disagree.


  3. says:

    If you are going to read just a single book about liberal arts education, this is the most approachable This is a pithy little contribution to the list of books endorsing liberal arts education Zakaria is an interesting non university voice in the conversation The internationalism of his experience adds another dimension It s not quite as intellectual a book as some of the others on liberal arts education Nussbaum, Roth, etc , but it s worth two and a half hours of your time.


  4. says:

    A short, lucid book that articulates Zakaria s thoughts on the significance of a liberal education This is not liberal as in politically left and squishy of thought, but liberal in the sense of the Yale report he quotes the essence of a liberal education is not to teach that which is peculiar to any one of the professions but to lay the foundation which is common to them all There is nothing in the book to disagree with Studying subjects such as literature, history, and philosophy will make you a humane, interesting, much smarter scientist, physician, or mathematician The total disregard of these subjects because they are not directly tied into lucrative professions will I think make the world a very poor place indeed The chapter I most liked is the one entitled Learning to Think This chapter is about writing as central to thinking I enjoyed the wonderful quotes Zakaria wove into his narrative and especially the one story about the columnist Walter Lippmann, who was once asked for his opinion on a topic He is said to have replied, I don t know what I think on that one I haven t written about it yet It s this chapter that shows the strongest correlation between a liberal education and learning how to think Although I was never very good in mathematics my mother despaired of me and farmed me out to tutors , I m certain that all the classes I took that I knew were irrelevant to my future forced my brain to grow in ways I could not perceive The author includes many interesting statistics about what we might lose by snickering at a liberal arts degree He quotes Steve Jobs, who said it is in Apple s DNA that technology alone is not enough It s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that makes our hearts sing I couldn t agree .


  5. says:

    I remember watching Jon Stewart interview Marco Rubio and Rubio was arguing for sensible education Words to the effect of, Do we need Greek History majors The argument is that people shouldn t go to college for knowledge, but to acquire a marketable skill The insistence is on learning a trade of some sort I come from a poor family, but I went to college primarily to learn something All my life I dreamed of learning for learning sake Not taking classes where I had to fill out some stupid worksheet, or regurgitate some information, but discuss big ideas I eventually received my BA in Psychology from the University of Texas at Austin, the biggest school that I could afford with student loans paying for everything I didn t get a job in psychology, I work for a family owned retail chain I m really good at my job, because of the reasons that Fareed Zakaria lays out in this book I was taught how to study, learn, interpret data, conduct experiments, and love learning I wanted to make films, but I felt getting a degree in film would be like learning a trade I wanted to expand my mind and learn things I never knew before, which is why psychology was so fascinating I minored in English, again, a discipline that requires you to make compelling arguments in written form To defend a thesis by supporting it with research Why would you ever need that in business To the opening question of Marco Rubio, Do we need Greek History majors I say, yes If we do not help people learn about Greek History, or American History, then only the elite will have access to this knowledge Essentially what Rubio and other politicians, both Republican and Democrat, are saying is that if you re poor, you don t deserve to learn anything that would enrich your life You don t deserve to have your mind expanded You should have been born to a rich family if you wanted to study art, what were you thinking Turns out this idea I had of everyone having access to the education they want is not new, Thomas Jefferson had it first He, too, was afraid of only elites having access to education and forming an unnatural aristocracy of birth, wealth, and privilege.I believe Mr Zakaria makes a compelling case for the need for a well rounded liberal arts education I know I ve benefitted well from mine, and so have my bosses, and the many employees who benefit from the revenue I ve helped generate But most importantly my life is much enriched by the knowledge I gained at U.T and the love of learning it left me with.


  6. says:

    First off, I like Fareed Zakaria especially his book The Future of Freedom, which is a nuanced, intelligent analysis of modern democracy in practice, which is very different than modern democracy in theory He is a learned and engaging writer whose books have, in the past, come close to being actually important and even necessary for those who want to understand the world.I also like liberal education I am a liberal educator I majored in English three times and didn t know if I would ever have a job, which, in fact, I do I have spent my career at liberal arts colleges and universities grappling with many of the issues that Zakaria foregrounds in this book I welcome defenses of liberal education and liberal arts by public intellectuals All that said, In Defense of a Liberal Education was a very disappointing book Worse, it is a book that did not need to exist and that, I suspect, was written and published only because the author was famous enough to write an publish it It contains enough good material for a good blog post or a half a dozen tweets It has no business being a book.In the first place, it quickly abandons its core purpose, to defend liberal education, to explore barely related tangents It is already a short book And almost all of it is boilerplate filler of the sort that can be copied and pasted by quickly searching value of liberal education on the nearest computer terminal It includes a long, and fairly inaccurate history of liberal education and a lot of statistics about how employers really want to hire people who can read and write and think Zakaria goes on to talk about education and the idea of American democracy and then ends with an encomium to today s young people, defending millennials from charges of spiritual emptiness and basically telling young people that they can stand on his lawn any time.All of the things that Zakaria does here are worth doing, but he does not do any of them very well Two of his middle chapters Learning to Think and The Natural Aristocracy could have been very important if he had drilled down beneath the cliches But, really, not going beyond cliches is kind of the main plan of the book.The biggest problem with In Defense of a Liberal Education, however, is that, when it actually does defend liberal education, it does so on the wrong basis Like university administrators everywhere, Zakaria defends liberal education on fundamentally illiberal grounds people should study English and philosophy and history because it will help them become better widget makers because they learn about critical thinking and teamwork, which will help them get good jobs and add value to the economy.All of this is at least arguably true, but I feel strongly that it is the wrong way to defend a category of education that, by design, is not supposed to care what you do with it The ultimate point of reading history, literature, or of learning how to think like a scientist or a mathematician is not to add value to the economy it is to learn things that are good to know, that connect us to the rest of humanity Learning stuff is fun and cool all by itself Knowledge is its own end.This is the great lesson of Newman s Idea of a University, which Zakaria quotes a lot but does not really seem to understand When you defend liberal education on purely utilitarian grounds, you have already lost the argument because you have conceded the main point, which is that things like education have to be useful to the economy and negotiable in the marketplace It is a common defense, but it is, in my opinion, the wrong one, and a dangerous place to make our stand.


  7. says:

    This book happened to be on my list at the right time I was an English major and so far have not gone on to pursue a Masters because there isn t anything I m passionate enough about where I know I would start it and complete it After yet another job rejection, I was feeling really down and wished I had gone to a different school or had majored in something else, but Fareed Zakaria and this informative book made me realize I have plenty of skills to succeed in the world, even if the job search is still ongoing.My liberal arts education gave me the tools to analyze and criticize, to see the world and events from others perspectives, and the proper social tools to sympathize and empathize with others in a professional setting Communication and problem solving skills, the ability to read people , and a developing sense of social awareness and activism are among the facets provided me by my liberal education.At one point in this book Fareed mentioned how a liberal education, while it may not provided the technical, skills based trades needed right away in the work force, a liberal education provides the skills needed to lead a life worth living, which made me tear up when I heard it because it is true My ability to read a ranging genre of literature and films from different culture and my increasing fascination with world news and history occurred because of the courses in English, literature, social sciences such as sociology, psychology, and human services studies, that I took My favorite pass times are watching films, reading books, writing both creatively and self reflectively Never being naturally inclined in math or science, to this day, I m not sure what else I could have majored in besides English, except perhaps Communications, but I cannot go back and I m starting to accept that.There are times when I wish I had done courses at my community college first and then transferred elsewhere and it doesn t hurt that I live a couple miles away from the best community college in the US , but I still may take courses there one day for a certification or a topic of interest and I know that opportunity is still there for me for the future One of the points of a liberal education is to add to it at some point and to keep learning A liberal education teaches you that you do not know everything and it teaches you how to learn, giving someone the confidence that it s never too late to go back to school or to better yourself.Fareed pointed out different statistics and facts about foreign countries, particularly Asian cultures and how they approach education They go to school days out of the year and are focused heavily on skills based learning such as math, science, and technology And in terms of how liberal education is applied in the US, it s not necessarily that it s being applied is a problem but HOW it s applied The professors have to be engaged and challenging than just classes where it could be conceived as ok to mess around Interesting read, especially if you re interested in this topic There are probably specific instances I could reference after a second listen, but this is a timely read


  8. says:

    In which a son of privilege explains why liberal education is important while ignoring that because of the huge costs associated with higher education the middle class and poor are virtually forced to be practical to survive If you love irony, he quotes this in his book without any sense of self awareness The education system is an increasingly powerful mechanism for the intergenerational reproduction of privilege.


  9. says:

    I listened to this audio while I was hauling branches and schlepping fronds the day after Hurricane Irma And, as expected, it was a big case of preaching to the choir I believe that my liberal education was one of the best things that ever happened to me, and am very grateful that I was educated at a time in this country when it was still the norm Fareed Zakaria


  10. says:

    I think this book has some good points, but they didn t seem to be clearly presented for me, at least One member of our book group agreed with me another one completely disagreed the rest were somewhere in between I grew up in an education oriented home My mother was a teacher my father was a member of first the local school board and later the county school board Together they helped found a statewide association for gifted children Education through college was expected and achieved for all four of their children But, in a way, those expectations and privilege meant that I didn t feel the pressure to go after education myself It was just taken for granted I enjoyed school and did well at it, but I never had to work very hard at defining what I wanted out of it It was an expected path that I dutifully followed and did as was expected of me Thus, some of the advantages this book touts, e.g., learning how to think critically and to write well, didn t seem like huge targets I could write well and I wasn t sure what thinking critically really meant I could analyze, I could make arguments But I wasn t especially intellectually engaged In some ways, I think undergraduate education is wasted on new adults They need to learn the liberal arts skills of thinking critically, writing well, making arguments verbally, etc., which is the point of this book, but they DO need specific job skills, too As an older adult now, I crave a active role in my own education Some of the things that I wish I had of are the very things that Zakaria thinks I should have gotten as a liberal arts student, but which I undervalued at the time Now that I am retired, I am taking several short classes and I find them worthwhile I would like even At my age, I am ready for seminars, for arguments about subjects I get a lot of this on Facebook, interestingly There is also a lot of less useful stuff there, but I am finding a community of like minded people to talk to there Maybe Facebook is liberal arts education for some of us.