Writing in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Dan Berrett traces the ongoing tension in American between visions of higher education “as a vehicle for intellectual development” and as a simple tool to prepare students for jobs. Citing Wesleyan President Michael S. Roth’s book, Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Matters, Berrett shows how the debate over the value of a liberal education has evolved from the days of the Founding Fathers to W.E.B. Du bois and Booker T. Washington to today.
“A farmer reading the classics or an industrial worker quoting Shakespeare was at one time an honorable character. Today’s news stories lament bartenders with chemistry degrees. ‘Where once these “incongruities” might have been hailed as signs of a healthy republic,’ Mr. Roth writes, ‘today they are more likely to be cited as examples of a “wasted”—nonmonetized—education.'”