President Michael S. Roth’s new book, Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Matters, is reviewed in The Washington Post by Christopher B. Nelson, president of St. John’s College in Annapolis. Nelson begins with the remark: “Michael Roth’s new book may finally answer a question I have often asked myself: Why do the leaders of our nation’s liberal arts colleges find it so difficult to define liberal education clearly and so challenging to communicate its benefits?”
He continues, “After reading Roth’s economical and nearly jargon-free historical account of liberal education in America, I think the answer may be this: There are many distinct threads of liberal education in America that have been woven and rewoven over time in many different ways. As a result, nearly every college now existing can legitimately lay claim to a distinctive sort of liberal education. Generic descriptions simply cannot convey the variegated vitality of liberal education as it is lived on our many college campuses.”
In presenting the ideas of prominent Americans who historically have shaped educational thought–from Thomas Jefferson to Ralph Waldo Emerson to Booker T. Washington–Roth provides a “substantial and lively discussion that allows the reader to maintain an open mind while examining the strengths and weaknesses of the several threads, each in its own turn,” writes Nelson.