Tag Archive for liberal arts

Roth’s Beyond the University Wins AAC&U’s Ness Book Award

Michael Roth

Michael Roth

At its annual meeting on Jan. 21, the Association of American Colleges & Universities (AAC&U) presented President Michael Roth with the Frederic W. Ness Book Award for his book, Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Matterspublished in 2014 by Yale University Press. The Ness Award is given annually to a book that best illuminates the goals and practices of a contemporary liberal education.

In Beyond the University, Michael S. Roth recounts the historic debates over the benefits—or drawbacks—of a liberal education. In this provocative contribution to the disputes, Roth focuses on important moments and seminal thinkers in America’s long-running argument over vocational vs. liberal education.

“As I argue in the book, a liberal education is more important than ever,” said Michael S. Roth, author of Beyond the University. “In 2016, we can work toward the wider recognition that liberal learning in the American tradition isn’t only training; it’s an invitation to think for oneself—and to act in concert with others to face serious challenges and create far-reaching opportunities. I’m honored to have the book recognized by AAC&U.”

Beyond the University was selected for the award by a committee of higher education leaders including Johnnella Butler (chair), professor of comparative women’s studies at Spelman College; Sandy Ungar, distinguished scholar in residence at Georgetown University; Elaine Maimon, president of Governors State University; and Reza Fakhari, associate provost for academic affairs at City University of New York Kingsborough Community College.

“Michael Roth provides the historical and contemporary rationale for the pragmatic, aspirational, and innovative liberal education needed for the ongoing transformations we need to meet the changing twenty-first-century realities both within and beyond the university,” said Butler.

The Ness Book Award was established by AAC&U in 1979 to honor AAC&U’s president emeritus, Frederic W. Ness. Recent award winners include Teaching Naked: How Moving Technology Out of Your College Classroom Will Improve Student Learning by José Antonio Bowen; Rethinking Undergraduate Business Education: Liberal Learning for the Profession by Anne Colby, Thomas Ehrlich, William Sullivan, and Jonathan R. Dolle; Why Choose the Liberal Arts? by Mark W. Roche; Tearing Down the Gates: Confronting the Class Divide in American Education by Peter Sacks; Our Underachieving Colleges: A Candid Look at How Much Students Learn and Why They Should Be Learning More by Derek Bok; Saving Higher Education in the Age of Money by James Engell and Anthony Dangerfield; Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi; Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts: Charting the Future of Teaching the Past by Sam Wineburg; and Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education by Martha Nussbaum.

Read press coverage of Beyond the University here.

President Roth Charts the Development of Pragmatic Liberal Education in His New Book

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.

The broad contextual education that Wesleyan and peer institutions offer is frequently critiqued, sometimes excoriated, by those who accuse it of not preparing graduates for success in today’s world. But that accusation, says President Michael S. Roth in his sixth and latest book, Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Matters (Yale University Press, 2014), is as old as liberal education itself – and never less convincing than now.

A historian whose previous scholarship has focused on making sense of the past, Roth charts the development of pragmatic liberal education through a succession of important American thinkers. Liberal education has deep roots in American culture and society, he says, as does the tension between liberal education and vocational education.

“The commitment to liberal learning that Jefferson described has been attacked for its potential elitism and irrelevance for more than two hundred years,” he writes. Jefferson saw education as both a key preparation for citizenship, essential for the health of the republic, and a means for fighting abuses of wealth and privilege. As the founder of the University of Virginia, he stressed that students would have the freedom there to pursue study that they found meaningful, not prescribed coursework.

“In the last few years,” Roth continues, “commentators (who usually themselves have had a liberal education) have again questioned whether we should encourage so many people to have the opportunity to make this discovery.

“If higher education is conceived only as a job-placement program for positions with which we are already familiar, then liberal learning does not make much sense. But if higher education is to be an intellectual and experiential adventure and not a bureaucratic assignment of skill capacity, if it is to prize free inquiry rather than training for ‘the specific vocations to which [students] are destined,’ then we must resist the call to limit access to it or to diminish its scope.”