The True Value of a Liberal Education

Wesleyan President Michael Roth is the author of a new book published in May 2014.

Wesleyan President Michael Roth is the author of a new book published in May 2014.

President Michael S. Roth was interviewed on KQED Public Radio in San Francisco about his new book, Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Matters.

“In American history, the debate about how practical college education should be goes back to the founding of the country. I think the problem today is we have this polarized discourse about education where people think that somehow a utilitarian, marketplace-oriented education has to take place at the expense of a broad and contextual one. I think that’s a big mistake,” said Roth.

The interviewer asked Roth about his contention that a liberal education is essential for a democratic society.

Roth stressed that he primarily advocates a “liberal education” rather than a “liberal arts education,” which requires the study of certain defined disciplines.

“A liberal education, as opposed to a liberal arts education, is really about learning to learn. Any discipline, John Dewey argued, can be taught in a liberal way,” he said. It’s not that we shouldn’t teach practical disciplines such as engineering or coding. “But we should teach them in such a way that, as citizens and thinkers, we can understand them in their social-political context.”

Listen to the entire discussion here.