Tag Archives: liberal arts education

The Classroom Before the NYT

11STONE-blog480In the midst of reading period, President Roth printed a message to students around the country, and especially those that take his classes, in the Sunday edition of the New York Times.

The article focused on the fact that in many classes, students are often quick to criticize authors and point out seeming contradictions while missing the point of the piece as a whole. As Roth explains:

In campus cultures where being smart means being a critical unmasker, students may become too good at showing how things can’t possibly make sense. They may close themselves off from their potential to find or create meaning and direction from the books, music and experiments they encounter in the classroom.

To criticize this piece would be an ironic twist of fate. However, shunning insightful criticism is not Roth’s point either. It is fair to criticize the author, Roth explains, so long as it is taken in the context of the piece as a whole.

Sanctimony: Roth on Dewey and Higher Education

Given the rate at which the stacks of New York Times seem to be disappearing these days, Roth’s opinion piece yesterday might be old news to many of you. For those who didn’t spot it, our esteemed/reviled/misunderstood president (I know Wesleyan students are students of diverse opinions) offered some choice words about the state of education in this country today, while simultaneously sidestepping the debates about access and affordability that continue to rage at Wesleyan (chiefly with regards to need-blind admissions).

Our Dear Leader frames his argument for an expansive, diversified system of higher education around the words and ideas of the nineteenth-century philosopher John Dewey, emphasizing the primary responsibility of schools as “[teaching] us habits of learning” and “[cultivating] freedom within society.” He ends with an assertive appeal that “higher education’s highest purpose is to give all citizens the opportunity to find ‘large and human significance’ [quoting Dewey] in their lives and work.”

The piece itself is right on the mark. However, it seems wildly disingenuous coming from a university president currently embroiled in a fight to cut accessibility and distill the romances and freedoms of a liberal arts education (which he lauds) into a nose-to-the-grindstone three-year degree program—despite how Roth might view the latter himself. His critique rests without a single mention of his own restrictive proposals.