The Corner


How to Make Liberal Arts Education Far More Beneficial

Many college students derive little value from their liberal-arts courses. That is because, argues Ethan Ake-Little (a doctoral candidate at Temple University), most colleges allow liberal arts faculty to do whatever they want to with their courses — unlike STEM courses. In today’s Martin Center article, he argues for standardization of the liberal-arts curriculum. By that, he means standardization within schools, not some national standardization.

As Ake-Little sees it, the main problem is that liberal-arts courses are very inconsistent:

Standardization can fix that inconsistency by requiring content taught in core classes to be updated and reviewed, holding faculty to high teaching standards. Many universities still view faculty as self-governing and self-regulating, erroneously assuming that academics will improve their teaching methods independently without guidance or assistance.

College administrator ought to become active in ensuring that liberal-arts courses are taught robustly, that syllabi are up-to-date and that courses are ideologically neutral.

One important result of standardization would be to raise the level of intellectual discourse. Ake-Little continues:

Embracing standardization could also safeguard the free exchange of ideas and protect against what Angela Logomasini of the Competitive Enterprise Institute has called ‘the academic nanny state.’ It could generate better discussions around controversial issues such as sexual and gender identity, abortion, and climate change by building a curriculum that puts intellectual merit above ideological sound bites.

The higher-education business is becoming increasingly competitive and schools need ways of separating themselves from rivals. Restoring the liberal arts to prominence strikes me as one good means of doing so.

George Leef — George Leef is the director of research for the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.

Most Popular


One Last Grift for Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders, the antique Brooklyn socialist who represents Vermont in the Senate, is not quite ready to retire to his lakeside dacha and so once again is running for the presidential nomination of a party to which he does not belong with an agenda about which he cannot be quite entirely ... Read More
PC Culture

Hate-Crime Hoaxes Reflect America’s Sickness

On January 29, tabloid news site TMZ broke the shocking story that Jussie Smollett, a gay black entertainer and progressive activist, had been viciously attacked in Chicago. Two racist white men had fractured his rib, poured bleach on him, and tied a noose around his neck. As they were leaving, they shouted ... Read More
Politics & Policy

The Strange Paradoxes of Our Age

Modern prophets often say one thing and do another. Worse, they often advocate in the abstract as a way of justifying their doing the opposite in the concrete. The result is that contemporary culture abounds with the inexplicable — mostly because modern progressivism makes all sorts of race, class, and ... Read More
Film & TV

A Sublime Christian Masterpiece of a Film

‘There are two ways through life -- the way of nature and the way of grace,” remarks the saintly mother at the outset of The Tree of Life, one of the most awe-inspiring films of the 21st century. She continues: Grace doesn’t try please itself. It accepts being slighted, forgotten, disliked, accepts insults ... Read More

White Progressives Are Polarizing America

To understand how far left (and how quickly) the Democratic party has moved, let’s cycle back a very short 20 years. If 1998 Bill Clinton ran in the Democratic primary today, he’d be instantaneously labeled a far-right bigot. His support for the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the Defense of Marriage Act, ... Read More