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Colleges at the Crossroads

Taking Sides on Contested Issues


Edited By Joseph L. DeVitis and Pietro A. Sasso

Focusing on crucial issues in higher education, this book challenges readers to go beyond taken-for-granted assumptions about America’s colleges and universities and instead critically examine important questions facing them in today’s troubled world. Each chapter presents divergent perspectives, that is, "pro" and "con" views, in the hope of stimulating reasoned dialogue among students, faculty, administrators, and the public at large. Readers will explore how internal factors in the academic community often interact with external social, economic, and political influences to produce conflictual results. They will see that academe is hardly value-neutral and inevitably political. This book urges them to transcend strident political persuasion and instead engage in the careful analysis needed to make colleges better.

The text provides in-depth appraisal of key topics of controversy: the purposes of higher education, liberal education, academic freedom, political correctness, tenure, shared governance, faculty workload, admissions tests, student learning, Greek life, the worth of college, equity and social justice, athletics, student entitlement, technology and distance instruction, and college amenities. The book will appeal to students, faculty, staff, and all those interested in the future of higher education. It is especially useful for courses in contemporary issues in higher education, foundations of higher education, higher education and society, college student development, and the organization and administration of higher education.

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3. The Urgent Need for Liberal Education in Today’s Troubled World (Bruce W. Hauptli)


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3.  The Urgent Need for Liberal Education in Today’s Troubled World


We live in a time of deep political divisions and intolerance. Moreover, both at home and abroad religious fanaticism confronts us (whatever “side” we are on).1 While many say we live in a “scientific” age, there are many (again, both at home and abroad) who believe scientists and their “theories” are egregiously promoting hoaxes on a too-gullible public.2 While we live in an “information age” where the best available information known to human beings is readily available to a far greater portion of humanity than ever before, it seems that fewer and fewer are able to separate the wheat from the chaff; and many confuse “popular sources” and “talking points” with authoritative information sources.3

Within our cultural tradition proponents of liberal education have held it to be the preferred strategy for addressing such challenges. Today, however, the very idea of a liberal education4 is under attack from multiple sides (again, both at home and abroad).5 Relativists claim it lacks tolerance for diversity and difference, while theologically minded individuals claim it promotes atheism and destroys fundamental enduring values. Differing individuals and groups claim it is useless; too expensive, that it is really indoctrination, or that it should be replaced by “education for the workplace.” Some, of course, just don’t understand what a liberal education is, and thus they cannot see it as even...

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