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11259960 • 3 years ago

Always been self-evident? No. Have a look at the history of history education before writing throw-away lines that simply aren't true. A set of mixed personality traits is not the same as "knowing how to think." As a professor of the humanities, I am embarrassed that we so seldom advance a cogent AND knowing case for ourselves or anything. resembling HIGHER education. The problem is only in part, to use this writer's word, "philistinism."

11259960 • 3 years ago

that should be "history of higher education"

nowak • 3 years ago

WOW! What a lecture!

IkeRoberts • 3 years ago

All of these virtues take practice, just like perseverance. What I especially like about this is that you can't "just Google it" for any of them.

trendisnotdestiny • 3 years ago

This article is a good conversation starter. When I was reading it, I was thinking of Tony Benn, the now deceased British, socialist parliamentarian. Paraphrased Benn suggests: 'it is much easier to govern a people when they lack resources around health, time, education, and retirement.'

By expending a lifetime of energy on tasks that should be a public good, we see how the public is herded into the cattle stall of education -- waiting to be fed. As Chris Hedges puts its --- colleges and universities are teaching students what to think instead of how to think. There is a wonderful book by Robert Proctor and Londa Schiebinger called Agnotology (the study of ignorance) which also captures an important part of this meme.

The place where I would spend the most time helping students develop critical thinking skills -- would be around the origins of the public relations field (Adam Curtis' documentaries) as well as the process called financialization (where the neoliberal think tanks, economists, corporatists hijacked the last vestiges of our democracy and turned it into a mall. Public relations (Lying for Professionals) and Finances (Monetary shell games) are the most fruitful places to teach critical thinking skills as most of despise being lied to and cheated financially.

Gopher63 • 3 years ago

Of course the alternative to college and hopefully learning how to think (and not what to think) is what many in the public experience: being taught what to think, by those with religious or other ideological and political agendas. The number of people who rant on newspaper forums that "Evolution is a lie", etc., is distressingly large.

Guest • 3 years ago
shawnpg • 3 years ago

Excellent point which begs the question, "How much credit should a college get for 'educating' someone who already knows how to think?" I have many friends in the professions you describe who put my knowledge of literature, music, history, politics to shame but some are self-conscious about their lack of "formal" education. They seem to think that they are at some kind of intellectual disadvantage for having not gone to college and they don't believe me when I tell them that those with college degrees do not have any sort of magic understanding of the world that they lack.

Let's take a close look at those who don't need to be taught the significance and love of thinking.

Reythia • 3 years ago

Agreed. I've noted that a lot of people tend to ignore the fact that the knowledge taught in liberal arts classes is often learned by a lot of people without a formal degree in those majors. As you noted, there are plenty of non-college-educated folks to learn a lot on their own. And even more, people who get college degrees in non-liberal-arts majors are also often interested in history, literature, economics, etc. We take individual classes and/or teach ourselves, both in college and for decades after -- library books are free, after all!

It seems to me that you can learn the skills and knowledge of a major without formally getting the degree.

Unemployed_Northeastern • 3 years ago

"I've noted that a lot of people tend to ignore the fact that the knowledge taught in liberal arts classes is often learned by a lot of people without a formal degree in those majors."

That goes both ways, of course. What do Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Nikolai Tesla, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Pierre de Fermat, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, and approximately 90% of IT workers have in common? No STEM degree. Hell, Fermat was a lawyer, so maybe there's hope for me yet...

99Luftballons • 3 years ago

U_N, 90% is too high in the current market, and the key point for the rest is they mainly started their own companies so that there was no need to convince an employer of their value. Starting your own company is key in a world of credentialism or being able to get your app to go viral.

These gross numbers seem to reflect the Dot Com Boom and other aspects like industry certifications from Microsoft, CISCO and the like. But IT people have generally been expected to train themselves especially for the latest fads.


* Only about a third of the IT workforce has an IT-related college degree.

* 36 percent of IT workers do not hold a college degree at all.

* Only 24 percent of IT workers have a four-year computer science or math degree.


http://www.epi.org/publicat...
Note that there seem to be more IT related degree grads than computer science and math grads. But with the computer intensive nature of Engineering, Physics, Chemistry, Biology and many of the rest or even first year CS is sufficient for most corporate IT jobs maintaining their infrastructure (we aren't talking about software engineering).

99Luftballons • 3 years ago

U_N, Shakespeare had no college degree and neither did Socrates, Plato, Xenophon, Alcibiades, Hesiod, Homer, Herodotus, Pericles or Thucydides.

Reythia • 3 years ago

Half right, half wrong. Yes, you're obviously right that there are some prominent individuals who are largely self-taught. That was particularly true in the 1970-90s, when there simply wasn't an older generation with large amounts of computer experience to be taught BY. The students (or non-students, as the case might be) knew as much as their teachers, since their teachers knew so little and things were changing so fast. So yes, agreed.

On the other hand, my seven years of living in IT-philic Austin, TX, taught me that your 90% approximation is WAAAAAY off. I know a LOT of Austin-area IT workers, working for places like IBM, AMD, Samsung, etc, and not a one of them that I've met doesn't have at least a bachelors in something relevant, and often a masters as well. The most typical degrees were in computer science, computer engineering, and electrical engineering of course, but I've known several with degrees in things like physics, chemistry, and mechanical engineering, too. These are the guys who actually design the chips and computer layouts that make your computer work.

And then there's the group in Silicon Valley that I know (less well) through a friend of mine from undergrad. They work mostly either at Google, various computer gaming companies, or else have their own tiny start-ups in computer software. Like my friend, they all have college degrees (just a bachelors is enough for the software people).

Now, I'm absolutely sure there are others out there who have no college degree and do computer work. But it's nothing near 90%. Well, maybe it might be relatively large if you're only talking about the office "IT guy" who installs Microsoft Word on your office machines and fixes things when someone gets a virus, sure. But that's not what most of us consider REAL STEM work. And it's not something taught at college, either, which is why so many "IT guys" don't have and don't need the degree. That's fine. But please don't assume that that's what people DO when they actually get a computer science (or related) college degree. That's generally considered a safe, fall-back sort of job, not the one that such graduates really want or (in the long run) often get.

As a more concrete example, I'm the lab manager of our small lab, so I'm in charge of all the computer-fix-it stuff for us. And I can do it with no problem. I could no doubt also work as an "IT guy" doing similar things. But that doesn't mean I can come even CLOSE to doing the things my friends at real computer companies can. I don't have the training or the experience to do so, and to GET that experience would probably take a couple of years of dedicated effort -- in which case, it might as well be called college.

shawnpg • 3 years ago

Jobs and Gates couldn't code their way out of a paper bag.

Unemployed_Northeastern • 3 years ago

Nor, I suspect, can Peter Thiel, Silicon Valley VC, neo-Randian libertarian godhead, and... a philosophy major.

Gopher63 • 3 years ago

Agreed, but as I posted elsewhere, tradespeople and others are also exposed to those who preach what to think usually baseless propaganda.

crowfoot • 3 years ago

This topic is at the heart of higher education and is increasingly important because higher education has major responsibility for and culpability for environmental unsustainability. It has promoted a limited way of thinking along with the hubris to advocate and claim it is the best and most advanced epistomology. In reality multiple ways of knowing as manifested in different cultures including particularly indigenous/traditional cultures as they are minimally impacted by scientism in the context of Western industrial culture, are essential to understand, appreciate and respect. Many if not most such cultures accept a deep interdependence with nature from which they learn and for which they exhibit deep respect on which they ground their understandings of social relations and particularly community. I have been helped in understanding the above by C.A. Bowers and more specifically his book, Revitalizing the Commons; Cultural and Educational Sites of Resistance and Affirmation (2006) and integral philosophy through the writings of Ken Wilbur and more specifically Sean Esbjorn-Hargens' "Integral Teacher, Integral Students, Integral Classroom: Applying Integral Theory to Education" (http://nextstepintegral.org... June 17, 20150

11299051 • 3 years ago

Thinking skills require hard work to develop and maintain. I am reminded of a former student who, when questioned about a regrettable lack of preparedness for class, shrugged his shoulders and said, "it's only hard work if you do it." I'm finding fewer people willing to commit to this level of hard work.

educationnet2007 • 3 years ago

What impressed me was Schwartz' attempt to define how to think. It's a discussion starter, not a discussion ender. Although my limited mind cannot focus on all the principles (I guess that's the word I want) at the same time, I can sense where students need the most help and use the one or two ideas that seem to fit. For me, grit has come up more frequently than any other needed virtue. I failed to pursue mathematics, not because I don't have a "flair" for them, but because I gave up too soon, too easily. So it is with many, many students in higher education.
"Good on you, Barry!" Thanks.

Sam Yang • 3 years ago

What an articulate treatise on thinking.

fmorriso9 • 3 years ago

I agree.

Babagranny • 3 years ago

This is indeed a starting point for a healthy discussion. But I wonder at the author's observation: "Few colleges and universities think systematically about how to encourage intellectual virtues. Mostly their cultivation is left to chance, not to institutional design." Having visited many colleges and universities on accreditation visits, I find that most of them do in fact systematically approach this challenge, not only in the humanities but also in professional education such as engineering, architecture, law, etc. Regional accreditation requires colleges to offer degree programs that include "general education." I can tell you that they continually struggle officially and sincerely with this concept and how to ensure that students achieve the intellectual abilities that are desired and/or intended. But this is not easy. As the Seabees said in WWII, "The difficult we do at once. The impossible takes a little longer."

22235571 • 3 years ago

I have been reading the Chronicle for more than 17 years, and this is the best article I have read in all that time. Kudos to Barry!

shivbor828 • 3 years ago

This is an excellent article. My colleague, Professor Rene Ramirez calls the list of "intellectual virtues" Prof. Schwartz has given, "epistemic virtues." In an paper Dr. Ramirez wrote on the subject in his book, "Within Reason" (2014) he argues that epistemic virtues, when practised, allow us to know and interact with the world through some fundamental moral bases. Moral - to me - is our sense of right, from wrong: don't do to others what you don't want done to you; or vice versa. Professor Barry Schwartz might find Ramirez' article interesting.

But what makes these intellectual/epistemic virtues possible to be practised?

In my, and Professor Ramirez' institution, Boricua College in New York City, a private not-for-profit liberal arts institution, we have two compulsory sets of courses that focus on students' intellectual skills development, and the development of their affective skills. Students have to take these two courses, at deeper levels of complexity throughout their tenure at the College -- from freshman to the master's --as they study subject matter knowledge.

Affective Skills courses, given as seminars, through structured curricula develop students' ability to listen, respond and engage in values clarification as they discuss subject matter knowledge. This course runs parallel to the one on intellectual skills development where students meet one-on-one with their assigned professor for the term to discuss subject matter knowledge via media the intellectual skills: i.e., they are asked respond to texts in instructional modules by using specific intellectual skills like comprehension, application of theories, analysis, synthesis and evaluation (Yes, they have been culled from Benjamin Bloom's Taxonomy of Educational Objectives (1956), popularly known as the Bloom Taxonomy.)

The two courses, carrying seven credits, are structured in such a way that the student takes them every semester (with increasing levels of complexity) with the content resonating with each other. This way, they get an opportunity to read the subject matter and discuss them from two very different, but related, perspectives.(I think it was Arthur Kittering who said, if students read the same subject matter and discuss them from different perspectives the knowledge is internalized at a deeper level)

We believe at Boricua College that professor Barry Schwartz' vision for an ideal liberal arts education may be realized to some extent by the way we approach students' intellectual and affective development as they learn subject matter knowledge.(I say this because I am deeply aware how much disagreement there is as to what liberal arts education should be!)

In the intellectual skills courses they learn how their intellectual mind works, through dialogue and discussion with their professors, individually assigned. They learn how to write using consciously the above-mentioned intellectual skills and self reflect. In the affective development courses they learn to listen attentively and respectfully to others; respond likewise; and continuously clarify the inherent values therein.

Shivaji Sengupta, Ph.D.
Vice President, Academic Affairs
Boricua College, NYC

Socratease2 • 3 years ago

Intellectual virtues sound swell and all but since when is "truth" itself a virtue? I can see "a search for truth" as a human virtue but, even there, what a fool's game. What kind of truth is Schwartz referring to? The truth about which minerals are the hardest? The truth of the meaning of life? These are very different kinds of truth.

"Finding the truth is hard. Relativism makes intellectual life easier.
There is no need to struggle through disagreements to get to the bottom
of things if there is no bottom of things."

Yeah, it's hard because it is mostly impossible unless you are simply willing to substitute "group consensus" for "truth." Schwartz is saying that everything eventually has "a bottom?" I guess if you want it to. And how does relativism make life easier? Relativism is a problem of which "shoulds" need to be believed in, as in, "you should believe in Christ in order to be a good person," or "You should never have more than one wife at the same time." Relativism in human affairs points out the absurdity of trying to define universal human norms or to find unitary truths.

michael317 • 3 years ago

Aspiring to truth does not mean proclaiming absolute and eternal truth (leave that to religion). "Truth" to many of us is an informed hypothesis, tested by the best empirical evidence available. The next time you fly on an airplane you're relying on multiple tested hypotheses about aerodynamics. Improvements and refinements certainly will come, but we've captured enough truth to give you a margin of safety.

One of the best statements about the ongoing nature of truth-seeking in the sciences can be found in Richard Feynman's Nobel Prize banquet speech. Note his reference to "further mysteries" always left to explore.
_______________
"Imagination reaches out repeatedly trying to achieve some higher level of understanding, until suddenly I find myself momentarily alone before one new corner of nature's pattern of beauty and true majesty revealed. That was my reward.

Then, having fashioned tools to make access easier to the new level, I see these tools used by other men straining their imaginations against further mysteries beyond. There, are my votes of recognition."

_________________

This tentative, yet cumulative process is how finite beings try to understand truth. It's quite different from throwing up our hands and saying "all truth is relative."

Babagranny • 3 years ago

I've always assumed that "the search for truth" is in itself the goal. What is it that we proclaim to be the truth? If one is honestly and sincerely and actively committed to "finding the truth" I think that in itself is the desirable intellectual virtue we wish to instill in students.

Socratease2 • 3 years ago

As long as empirical evidence is the standard then I am all for truth statements, it is when the subject involves human understandings of non-empirical subjects that the search for truth with a capital T starts to break down. I can't remember where I read this quip and I can't quote exactly but something to the effect of: To those who claim they are searchers of truth I have nothing but respect, to those who say they have found the truth, I have nothing but disgust.

mkt42 • 3 years ago

Schwartz didn't say that truth is a virtue; he said that love of truth is a virtue. Big difference.

Brown_Dog • 3 years ago

Thanks to our political parties and their love of the testing industry, education has been defined as knowing facts and obtaining fairly minor skills that can be obtained in a 16 week semester. If there was any idea concerning the concept of thinking, reasoning and developing it over several years in our state and federal governments, it died of loneliness years ago. No better example of this can be found than the Texas Republican's platform wanting to do away with critical thinking years ago, and the resurrection of this same idea in Wisconsin with Scott Walker and his band seeking removal of the Wisconsin Idea from education.

tuliptree • 3 years ago

This article is baffling. It states the intention of addressing "how to think," as a proper goal for colleges and universities. But it skips over the elements of critical thinking and lands on a set of virtues that are more like desirable character traits. These virtues would of course be desirable in any person, but post-secondary education is far from the only venue where they are learned and practiced. As I read, the people who came to mind as having these virtues were almost entirely people with no education beyond high school. And it also seems to me that the process of gaining admission to a selective college these days actually discourages the development of several of them -- especially humility and courage.

willynilly • 3 years ago

The very first paragraph which seems to be intended to encapsulate the problem of reduced public support of the value of higher education and calls for greater accountability, actually fails in that purpose. It ignores the elephant standing next to it. That elephant is the for-profit scam schools which many members of the public view as being an accepted member of the family of higher education. Some realize that these scheming schools are not, but too many American citizens have not yet figured out that they are higher education impostors. There single purpose is to yield huge profits for their unscrupulous owners and operators, They have no interest in providing quality teaching or in guaranteeing actual meaningful learning. These are "cut every corner" operations because spending the amounts of money necessary to insure quality is not a part of their business plan. They are motivated only by the notion of profit and increasing their profits to the maximum - and that means spending little - very little. That is why their highest expense item is marketing, recruiting and securing enrollments. Get them (their victims) suckered in, get them paid, keep them in and continually paying, give them nothing of value, then get them out and away with a useless exit credential.
It seems as if every solution contains a recommendation to find new ways of improving access. Actually we would benefit more handsomely if we limited access to these fraudulently operated for -profit ripoff schools. We need to find ways to educate higher education consumers to avoid these profit-only schools and become affiliated with a legitimate higher education institutions. Then we will see a real positive difference of public opinion and perception.

Richard Sherry • 3 years ago

This is, of course, a complete hijacking. For the scope of the problem, see below.

Total undergraduate enrollment, in 2013 (NCES):
public: 13.3 million (76%)
not-for-profit: 2.9 million (16%)
for-profit: 1.4 million (8%)

(http://nces.ed.gov/programs...

Graduate enrollment (all masters, doctoral):
public: 1.4 million (42.6%)
not-for-profit: 1.2 million (48.7%)
for-profit: 286,000 (8.9%)

Reythia • 3 years ago

I've no problem with the idea that a good college experience should encourage students to learn the morally-good and practically-useful "virtues" listed here. But why does this author limit his thoughts to ONLY the liberal arts? I've no issue with the conclusion that "students who have training in the liberal arts will be not only better people and better citizens but also better professionals and employees." But why stop there? Why not generalize and note instead that students who have training in the ANY well-designed college field will be not only better people and better citizens but also better professionals and employees? Whether that's history or music or physics or computer science, ALL specialties can encourage students to learn about the broader world, not merely their own specialty's minutia.

The author notes at the top that "Universities that offer specialized training in specific professions have an answer [to what their students are getting for their tuition money]: "We’re training the next generation of nurses, accountants, physical therapists, teachers, software engineers, etc., etc." Whether they do it well or not is a legitimate issue, but that they should be doing it is not much in dispute. For programs in the liberal arts, however, the answers are not straightforward."

I do not see how he has, in any way, answered this question. Because while, yes, the "virtues" he described are valuable and are taught in good liberal arts programs, they are ALSO taught in good fine arts programs, good business programs, good science programs, good engineering programs, etc. So the question, to me, is what a degree in the liberal arts is teaching, that those other majors aren't. This article totally avoids that question, which is why it comes out sounding like a bit of a whitewash, rather than a solid answer to a specific question.

For myself, were *I* a liberal arts professor, I wouldn't try to whitewash things. I wouldn't try to claim that my major was valuable because of the intangible "virtues" it teaches on the side, but because the specifics of the coursework ITSELF was important. And if that's not true, or if that's not true enough for most graduates to get jobs, then maybe we ought to look at what we're really teaching and what students are really learning. Because, trust me, those "virtues" listed above really ARE learned by students in other fields, so that's only a reason to go to a good college in general. It's NOT a reason by itself for why a degree in a specific major is worthwhile. For that, you've got to look at the specifics of the major itself.

Personally, I find it rather disturbing that liberal arts professors can't find even ONE THING valuable about their own, specific major to point out as "valuable" on its own. I also think they're doing their own major a disservice. And so long as they refuse to think critically about what their specific major provides to their students, they will never be able to convince politicians or the general public that their majors are more valuable for any other major which can claim BOTH the general "virtues" defined here AND specific knowledge and practice in specific techniques which help prepare them for a specific field of jobs. Seriously, as someone who loves to read and write, who enjoys history, and who practices music herself, you liberal arts folks can come up with better explanations for your own value than this.

cwinton • 3 years ago

It is ironic that disciplines which emphasize the virtues of being articulate have so much trouble articulating what their intrinsic values are.

Reythia • 3 years ago

Agreed. And, really, most educated people LIKE at least bits and pieces of the output from many of the liberal arts! It shouldn't be that hard to convince people that formal study into them is also useful.

Charlie • 3 years ago

"Love of the truth," I would replace with "a commitment to understanding," which changes an emotion (emotions wax and wane) to an intention and accommodates both a perspective that believes in truth and one that doesn't.
The only other thing I'll add is that when state governments plan to, for example, graduate 60,000 students by 2020, it makes just as much sense as the planned economy in the Soviet Union. How do they plan to do this? Shorten the degree to three years! Offer online B.A.s and B.S.s!
Four years attendance in a real learning environment is necessary to BEGIN to inculcate the author's "intellectual virtues."

nomadjcd • 3 years ago

What is scary here is that colleges are on the line for "educating" graduates at extremely high cost to enter a neoliberal market world that could care less about individual workers...What about the pay is controlled by the (post-educated) worker? The benefits? Job security? What about the employers who control all these facets of post-graduate life? Why not turn the lens on them? In any case, college costs way too much, and it is the corporatization of the university that is responsible. The everyday stakes (post-graduation) are way out of the young person's control. Those with monied resources and networks will manage fine enough, but most kids will be burdened with a debt that will be very hard to repay...

22060080 • 3 years ago

Where's evidence? Like any other opinion -- including my own -- this and a few dollars will buy you a Starbucks but to be convincing, points of view like this need to learn to use evidence, not just vent.

kathden • 3 years ago

Show me a double-blind study that proves students do better in courses when they read assignments.

shawnpg • 3 years ago

Double blind? So the students won't know if they are in the Reading or Non-Reading group?

Seriously, though, I've done the closest thing possible in my large intro classes. The first exam results typically yield a bi-modal distribution and, back when I was green, this puzzled me until I went to a colleague who pointed to the higher mode and said "Have the books." Then, he pointed to the lower mode and said "Don't have the books."

I tested his hypothesis and it was consistent with my findings. (Even empiricists tend to avoid the word "prove.")

kathden • 3 years ago

I was just joking.
But was your correlation with book-reading or book-possessing?
Ah, empirical tests! They always have to be hedged round with qualification after qualification....
My beef is with the guy who tries to close down discussion at the start by asking whether you have evidence, meaning experimental studies with appropriate statistical analysis. The problem is that the studies almost never manage to accomplish anything definitive, other than to assure further studies to either confirm, or disconfirm, or amplify, or narrow down results.

Feudi Pandola • 3 years ago

There is much food for thought in Professor Schwartz's article. The cost of attendance at Swarthmore College is $61,400 per year, or about a quarter of a million dollars for a bachelor degree. That might be a great place to start the quest for the virtues he discusses.

Unemployed_Northeastern • 3 years ago

IPEDS net price is about $20k/year for Swarthmore. http://www.collegecalc.org/....

EDIT: This actually makes it less expensive than Penn State, whose IPEDS net price clocks in at $22.5k/year. http://www.collegecalc.org/...

reineke • 3 years ago

Writer Pandola takes a cheap shot. He has looked up the costs, but ignored everything else on the Swarthmore Financial Aid page. Swarthmore awards $31 million in scholarships every year and meets 100% of need for every accepted student. All acceptances are calculated independently of a student's ability to pay. A remarkably diverse student body is the result. From its earliest years, Swarthmore graduates have attested to the values about which Schwartz writes by leading lives of service and making exemplary contributions to society.

blowback • 3 years ago

Some of the thinking here seems very outdated: "liberal arts education is a precious jewel," love of truth," etc. No one who reads this kind of analysis will be convinced that any of this has much value. Those who wish to defend the study of the humanities need to stop arguing that somehow study the liberal arts will turn you into a better person. To learn to think well requires attention to skills of close reading and precise analysis. Too often those who wish to defend the study of the liberal arts assume one need to become an liberal arts major. One can study the humanities without earning a degree in any of its disciplines. I do not know why there is never any discussion of demanding that students become double majors. Indeed the failure of Prof. Schwartz to give any serious re-thinking of what is a major or what should a course of study in the humanities be or how to redefine the very outdated idea of how we define majors and departments merely highlight what has been left out of Prof. Schwartz's analysis.
And of course none of this is very helpful when the real problem is that too many students are not prepared to undertake the hard work of learning. Maybe the time has come to realize that the study of the humanities should be directed only to the very few and not to the masses who want professional training. Maybe the very traditional notion of general liberal arts education has outlived its usefulness to a student population no longer able to appreciate it. I see that the Professor has left very vague how to take students who do not wish to work very hard and make them want to work harder? What is needed is to impose onto students the discipline of mind they often lack. But to do so would require that we in higher education will have to stop pretending that students are the measure of all things---we will have to stop listening to what students want and give them what they need. We need to do away with this student centered university we have created and return to a university centered on what needs to be mastered. Most colleges who call themselves liberal arts colleges----and they all do---are not places of demanding intellectual study. It might be useful to come up with some other term to describe what most institutions of higher education are in America---something that is printable since we all know what they have become but no one in higher education has the spine to actually say it out loud. Telling the truth is that not what Prof. Schwartz claims to the most central virtue of a liberal arts education----too bad I have yet to hear any liberal arts professor or any one in higher education actually speak the truth about higher education in America or the actual truth about American students. Perhaps Prof. Schwartz's book should have begun with some of these truths rather the string of cliches he has appeared to have woven together here.

mnogojazyk • 3 years ago

I like this, but when I was going through my doctoral studies, it became clear to me that "how to think" was synonymous with 'what to think'. This synonymity eventually drove me out of my studies, I am sad to say.

Gopher63 • 3 years ago

Sorry for your unfortunate grad school experience. Was in in the liberal arts? My background, heavy in STEM but with enough liberal arts to help me be more well rounded yielded the opposite.

mnogojazyk • 3 years ago

It was in a cognitive science.

rubegoldberg • 3 years ago

I tend to agree with Schwartz, but he is at Swarthmore. My institution is third tier, public, and prides itself on producing a maximum number of degrees as quickly as possible for lots of students who in decades past would never have gone to college. That is, an entirely different cohort. We, as faculty, mouth the same critical thinking platitudes, but when it comes to what happens in class and how we evaluate it, we are teaching factoids and assessing with multiple-choice exams. Yes, we're trying to change (service learning, flipped classrooms, group projects in the community), but this is what our cohort can manage absent extensive remediation, which we haven't the resources to do (and, to be honest, the students don't want to have their "thinking" messed with; they just want the credential.). At our institution, the liberal arts degrees are, in actual fact, FAILING to teach students how to think, although it is theoretically possible to do so, of course. We are teaching them little bits of fact-y stuff and then pretending that it adds up to "thinking."

Then there is the whole issue of "character training." Half of what Schwartz talks about seems to bear as much on personal values and character as it does on education (and, indeed, the two dimensions are closely related.) But as a public institution, we stay as far away from espousing values as possible (except, obviously, for valuing diversity and a few other tropes). In a heterogeneous culture and with the degree a stand-in for economic mobility options, we just can't go there without risk. And heaven knows, these days higher ed leaders are understandably scared to death of courageous stands.