The Modern Liberal Arts College in
America
(美国的现代文理大学)
Scott Wilson
The University of the South (Tennessee, USA)
Professor and Chair, Politics Department
2014-15: Fulbright Scholar at Wuhan University
Environmental Law Research Institute
[email protected]
Introduction
• Personal background
– Studied at Oberlin College, a liberal arts college
– Have taught at The University of the South, a liberal arts college,
for 20 years
• Defining the liberal arts
– By classical definition of course of study (古典课程)
• Humanities: philosophy, music, theatre, literature, languages, history
• Social Sciences: economics, politics, anthropology, sociology
• Sciences and Mathematics
– In contrast to practical/vocational studies (工作专业的课程)
– Carnegie Definition: “These institutions are primarily
undergraduate colleges with major emphasis on baccalaureate
programs. They award at least one half of their baccalaureate
degrees in liberal arts fields.”
Introduction, Continued
• Why is this model of education important?
– Was the dominant model of education in the U.S.
– Considered the best pedagogical model (教学模
范)
– Shows changes that are taking place in American
education
– Distinct model of education
– Embodiment of some American values
Organization of Today’s Talk
•
•
•
•
•
Model of liberal arts college
Philosophical roots of liberal arts
History of liberal arts colleges in the U.S.
New trends in liberal arts colleges
Liberal arts colleges and their future
Model of the Liberal Arts Experience
• Students trained in basic disciplines
• Emphasis on general educational tools
• Schools either prescribe a “general education”
model or allow choice of general education
courses (通识教育课程)
St. John University First-year Readings
St. John University Sophomore and
Junior Year Readings
St. John University Senior Year Reading
The University of the South’s
Curriculum
Sewanee’s General Education Requirements (10-12 courses)
A major (10-13 courses) (主修课)
Electives (7-12 courses) (选择课)
Liberal Arts Experience, Continued
• A major course of study
– Usually chosen after 3 semesters of study
– Allows students to discern (发觉,看清楚) their
interests
• Integrated/interdisciplinary learning
– Classical liberal arts integrated learning (综合学系)
– Research institutions often have very strongly defined
disciplines
– More interdisciplinary work at liberal arts colleges, e.g.
Women’s and Gender Studies, Asian Studies,
Environmental Studies
• Study abroad
Liberal Arts Experience, Continued
• Residential life
– Rural settings
– Sustained contact
between faculty and
students
– Model values (提供
道德模型,生活模型)
Goals of liberal arts model
Development of the “whole person” (道德修养)
Community of learning
Intensive interaction between students and faculty
Student responsibility
Develop contributing citizens (有贡献的公民)
Lifetime of learning
Liberal Arts Experience, Continued
Honor Codes (荣誉法典) and Student Obligations
• Students pledge to uphold honor
• Students enforce the honor pledge
through student committee
• Each student is responsible for
upholding the pledge
• Some schools have students rewrite
the pledge every few years
Philosophical Roots of Liberal Arts
• Greek tradition (Socrates,
Plato, and Aristotle)
• Subjects (Trivium (三学
课)and Quadrivium
(四艺)
• Socratic method
• Emphasis on civic
obligations
• Sophists
• Cicero
European Universities and Liberal Arts
• Early universities drew on trivium and
quadrivium
• UK elaborated on the liberal arts model
• Europe developed liberal arts, but began to
abandon them in the 17th and 18th centuries
American Approach to the Liberal Arts
• John Dewey’s emphasis on democracy and education
• Eugene Lang (philanthropist, born 1919): “The
philosophy of the liberal arts is the philosophy of a
democratic society in which citizenship (公民权、责
任), social responsibility, and community are
inseparable. An educated citizenry is the essential
instrument for promoting responsible social action and
community well-being. It is characterized by an
ongoing effort to develop informed, humane, and
thoughtful judgments of social issues and to act
appropriately on these judgments”
History of U. S. Liberal Arts Colleges
• All early colleges were liberal arts colleges
– Including all Ivy League Schools (except Cornell)
– Educate white, Christian men
– Others denied entry
• Women’s colleges formed
• Later, black colleges formed (but not as liberal arts
colleges
– Provide moral training
History of U. S. Liberal Arts Colleges,
Continued
• Access to society, required access to education
– W.E.B. DuBois and training black intellectuals
– Yale Report (1828) defined liberal arts
• Pfnister: “was not to ‘teach that which is particular to
any one of the professions’ but rather to ‘lay the
foundation that is common to them all.’”
• Found separate schools for professional training
• Affected the continued curricular approach of liberal
arts colleges
History of U. S. Liberal Arts Colleges,
Continued
• Morrill Act of 1862
– Granted land to states for
development of
universities
– Focus on engineering (工
程), agriculture (农
业),and mechanical arts
(机械艺术)
• Led to spread of state
universities
• Significant threat to
liberal arts colleges
History of U. S. Liberal Arts Colleges,
Continued
Daniel Coit Gilman, first
president of Johns Hopkins
University
Early photo of Johns Hopkins
University. Said Gilman, “The best
teachers are usually those who are
free, competent, and willing to make
researches in the library and the
laboratory.”
History of U. S. Liberal Arts Colleges,
Continued
A. D. White Reading Room at
Cornell University
Andrew D. White, co-founder of
Cornell University, “I would found
an institution where any
individual can find instruction in
any study.”
History of U. S. Liberal Arts Colleges,
Continued
• Second Morrill Act of
1890
• Universities had not
opened to blacks
• Creation of black
colleges, separate from
whites’ colleges
History of U. S. Liberal Arts Colleges,
Continued
• Development of
professional
associations (专业协
会)around 1900
• Standardized exams
(资格考试), e.g. Bar
exams (lawyers),
medical exams (doctors)
• Forced changes in
American teaching
History of U. S. Liberal Arts Colleges,
Continued
• Expansion of educational opportunities
– 1900: 4% of population went to college
– 1920: 8%
– 1940: 16%
– New kinds of students went to college
• Less wealthy and elite
• More interested in practical training
• The Number of liberal arts colleges fell
through the 20th century
New Trends in Liberal Arts Colleges
• Collaborative Research (合
作研究)
– Teach students how to apply
research methods
– Goal: shared discovery
through research
• Non-liberal arts colleges
also do this, but it is more
successful and common at
liberal arts colleges
New Trends in Liberal Arts Colleges,
Continued
• Community engagement (与社
区参与)
• Take lessons from courses and
engage in problem-solving in the
community
• The University of the South’s
land management approach
– Survey local population
– Work with population to improve
land management
– Train timber industry in better
harvesting techniques
• Transfer skills to the community
New Trends in Liberal Arts Colleges,
Continued
• Internships (实习工作)
– Help students develop job
skills
– Help students to discern what
they wish to do
• Blending excellence in
teaching and research
– Originally liberal arts colleges
focused just on teaching
– Studies show liberal arts
colleges best achieve goal of
excellence in teaching and
research
Experiences of Students at Liberal Arts
Colleges and Other Institutions
College Experiences of Seniors by Type of Institution
Service
Learning
Research
with
Faculty
Internship/Field
work
Research
Universities
59
15
Master's
(medium
programs)
65
23
Liberal Arts
Colleges
68
44
Other Bacc.
Colleges
67
24
Source: NSSE Survey 2013 Annual Results
Study
Abroad
Culminating
Experience
36
8
37
46
12
46
66
39
74
50
9
50
Liberal Arts Colleges and Their Future
• Challenges
– Affordability
– Perceived “practicality”
– Limited size
• Reforms
– Application of theories to practical exploration
– Extend learning beyond the classroom
– Greater attention to inclusion of multicultural
students
Liberal Arts Colleges and Their Future,
Continued
• Advantages of liberal arts colleges
–
–
–
–
–
–
–
–
–
Social capital
Personal attention
Close relations with faculty
Acceptance of diversity among students
Learn to work with others
Preparation for citizenship
Attention to the whole person
Students have high level of satisfaction
Students have high level of success
• Liberal arts colleges and American values/principles
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