Future American historians will wonder why at precisely the time the country needed citizens who understood citizenship, the meaning of democracy, ethics, science, historical thinking, and how to build an argument based on truth, facts, and evidence, we decided to slowly abandon the liberal arts.
Matthew Moen, a political science professor at the University of South Dakota, is thinking about the same things. Here is a taste of Inside Higher Ed piece titled, “Opportunity Knocks for Liberal Education“:
At its core, liberal education consists of two contradictory yet complementary streams: the pursuit of truth and the creation of virtuous citizens in the community. Bruce A. Kimball makes this crystal clear in his magisterial 1986 book, Orators and Philosophers: A History of the Idea of Liberal Education.
The search for truth is right now the only antidote to the poison of disinformation in America. The creation of virtuous citizens is central to building a new, more inclusive democracy.
However it happened, in other words, liberal education now sits squarely in the middle of what so ails our nation and what is required to fix it. Truthfulness and citizenship are needed now more than ever. Opportunity knocks.
Opportunity knocks because developments in the public square ensure that these issues will be salient for years to come. Take truthfulness. We can be sure that our foreign adversaries will continue peddling disinformation to diminish America’s stature in the world. Mass manipulators will continue spreading wacky conspiracy theories to line their pockets, amplified by those who follow. Members of Congress from both political parties are for different reasons weighing regulation of the tech companies over disinformation issues.
These will spill over into recurrent issues of free speech, free expression, campaign expenditures, voter information and even the terms of service for social media users. All are likely to wind their way through legislatures and courts at the national and state levels for years to come.
We’ve grown accustomed (or maybe numb) to the search for truth in our political discourse, but this issue is so much larger than just politics. It spills out across our daily lives. We no longer even trust faces in a photograph. Truth or falsehood, fact or faction, is a defining issue of our time and will remain a significant challenge for our descendants.
Here’s the point: the search for truth lies at the very heart of liberal education, of what we do. We just have to effectively convey that to the public.
Read the entire piece here.