Phi Beta Cons

An Excellent Review of Two Books on Liberal Education

I first heard about Joshua Hochschild when I saw his Wall Street Journal piece “Welcome to the Ginger and Pickles University” which used a Beatrix Potter story to show how ridiculous government student aid is. He is dean of the College of Liberal Arts at Mount St. Mary’s University in Maryland and I have been hoping to see more of his writing. (I wrote a SeeThru post about his piece, which includes a link to it.)

He recently sent me his dual review of Fareed Zakaria’s In Defense of a Liberal Education and Frank Bruni’s Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be.

Hochschild finds both books rather disappointing because the authors accept the widespread belief that higher education (liberal arts, included) is valuable insofar as it helps students get good jobs. “They’re writing for parents worried about their children getting the right job. Their concern is more about financial stability and less than a noble life: it is, plain and simple, social standing. The audience for these books is not the wider consumers of college education as a whole, but cosmopolitan elites, anxious about success among their peers. Bruni’s book aims to assuage guilt and temper mania about the role of status in education. Zakaria’s book aims to remind the power elite of the undervalued mojo of liberal education,” he writes.

Very insightful — I hope to see still more of Hochschild’s writing.

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

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