Let's begin by stating categorically, if liberal arts education in America declines, so does the very heart of America. The conjecture about the future of private liberal arts colleges is more than a scorecard related to one sector—higher education—in our economy; it is a discussion about the future of the core of American values.
More than anything we entertain in our American life, the liberal arts are the highest exercise of our independence. In no other undertaking do we use the advantages of our liberty to explore freely the wide array of possibilities that enlarge our minds, improve our lives and, ultimately, advance our democracy.Jake B. Schrum
21st President of Emory & Henry College
Liberal arts education, you see, is much more than what we, through centuries of taking it for granted, have come to know, which is an education that enables students to see the world through a variety of perspectives. More than anything we entertain in our American life, the liberal arts are the highest exercise of our independence. In no other undertaking do we use the advantages of our liberty to explore freely the wide array of possibilities that enlarge our minds, improve our lives and, ultimately, advance our democracy.
Our forefathers, in balancing the competing interests of governmental branches, expected that upholding all ends of that delicate scale depended largely on a culture that could think critically and be free to explore questions and issues from different angles. They could not have imagined an America without strong liberal arts institutions preparing the best leaders of our democratic society.
It is with this thesis that I seek to regularly communicate about the value and speculate about the future of liberal arts education in this country. Through this series of opinions I seek to contribute to a discussion that will enhance a larger understanding of the chief objective of higher education in this country—to create a population of informed and skilled contributors to a better America. I also seek to demonstrate that, by falling short of that objective, we run a grave risk of becoming a country ever in search of an identity and ever at odds with itself.
I hope that you will follow along in this discussion and engage in it, hopefully understanding fundamentally that any crisis in higher education that we may face is more than the survival of educational institutions; it is the survival of what we most value as an American community.