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Liberal Arts at the Brink Hardcover – February 14, 2011
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Victor E. Ferrall, Jr. has written a timely book with passion, details, and insights on the factors contributing to the decline in demand for liberal arts education, the crisis facing the liberal arts colleges, and the way forward for arresting the decline...This book is must reading for those who want to know about liberal arts education and care about the survival of liberal arts colleges in general and in America in particular. (Edward K. Y. Chen Hong Kong Economic Journal 2011-09-03)
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As long as he sticks to this brief, his brisk and logical writing style is well suited to his topic, and he makes a vigorous and persuasive argument that the climate for the small liberal arts college today is poor and that the best hope for this tiny but precious sector of American higher education lies in consortial efforts by liberal arts colleges as a group to make common cause for the unique value of the individualized and non-vocational education they offer. A statistic that stands out for me: More students are currently enrolled in the for-profit University of Phoenix (384,900) than in all the 225 liberal arts colleges (as identified in US News and World Report) combined (349,000). As Ferrall demonstrates, even this small sector of liberal arts education is moreover increasingly pressed to offer a more and more vocational education. While the most highly ranked liberal arts colleges still hold out against vocational studies, those with smaller endowments who are having a more difficult time surviving are turning over in many cases more than half of their curriculum to vocational courses.
While not overstating his case, Ferrall asks why we should care?Read more ›
Should be particularly valuable for people (faculty, trustees, etc.) who care about liberal arts colleges and are used to thinking about internal issues (how to make our school better) but would benefit from seeing the big picture of industry-wide trends.
Contains thoughtful analyses of tenure's pros and cons and how badly typical PhD training at a research university serves people who end up being faculty at liberal arts colleges.
I have now lived in Korea for five years, teaching English in both a public school setting as well as in the "hogwons" or academies that are on every street and on every block--those ubiquitous private institutions that teach a variety of subjects, from English to TKD to art, math,science, music, inter alia. The amount of time and money invested in these hogwons would arouse stunned amazement, at best, in the US, and disbelief at worst.
Unlike the liberal arts focus which is geared towards understanding and ceativity, in Korea the sole purpose of education is to pass the several rungs of exams each student must take during his academic life--to move up the ladder by going to a better middle or high school, and then a top college, and all for the biggest and most important payoff: getting a high-paying job. The problem is, however, that as a result of this "Test-education", no one here thinks much, or deeply; and few read after college--and almost no one on his/her own learns a new subject just for the love of it. Whereas a liberal arts education trains the mind, sharpening it, honing it, deepening it, and broadening it,and sets it on a life-long path of enquiry and beauty and truth, this exam-oriented education is wholly and entirely concerned with passing the state tests to get into a top college. Inquiry, in other words, is shunted aside and all emphasis is on memorization and the skills needed in test-taking! As a result, there is no inquiry-driven interest in academic subjects, only a concern to master test-taking skills.Read more ›