Liberal arts colleges represent about 4% of the entire cohort of college students who are going to be educated in one year. That’s a very small percentage that schools and even business leaders would like to see increased.
Gary Phillips is Dean of the College at Wabash College in Crawfordsville Indiana where they have been researching the impact of the “Humanities” on college students, graduates and the society at large.
They’re still mining the data of a study of 19,000 students from 49 institutions and Phillips says there are some key components of an effective liberal arts curriculum. "Undergraduate research with faculty, diversity experiences, service learning, high academic challenge and rigor; direct engagement with faculty and staff-who get into the lives of students up to their elbows-and provide opportunities to think diversely and engage persons different from them.”
Phillips calls those, “High Impact Practices,” and says their research shows measurable results in many student outcomes, “Cognitive skill development, critical thinking, a sense of well-being, an ability to navigate conflict in diverse settings. We see when these high impact measure art put in place students change.”
Phillips says the age-old tension between breadth and specificity in education is one where a pendulum swings from one side-technical specific training--to the other-the humanities. He says it is the duty of liberal arts schools to make sure there is breadth. “And that you also have represented in the majors that you have specificity and you have to have balance for effective education to take place.”
Phillips says there are important questions that need to be addressed when we consider the education of our children, “What is it that we are preparing the student to become in this day and age. What kind of man, what kind of woman. What kind of civic contributor. What is it about the human condition in our country that necessitates thinking about what we’re doing with therm in the classroom.”
Phillips says there are many attributes in a student of the humanities that employers look for beyond the task specific skills, “…individuals who can think about moral choices, who can write, who are able to communicate; who are able to discern differences and able to make a reasoned and informed judgment about their own culture and their set of values in contrast to others.”
20th at 7 p.m.