FUTUREU FORUM: FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 24, Professor Christopher A. Snyder on “The Principles of a Liberal Arts Education”

Friday, November 24, Noon, Eastern & 11 a.m. Central Time, LIVE on YouTube (engagement option below)

FutureU was impressed with Professor Snyder’s powerful commentary, A Liberal Education in Name Only, published by Inside Higher Education on October 23. In it, Snyder argues persuasively that “a liberal arts education means something, and colleges that slash programs should stop using the term in their promises to students.”

Courtesy The Conversation

After listing institutions that have eliminated or reduced liberal arts offerings and presenting statistics regarding the aggregate devolution of liberal arts offerings, Professor Snyder lists multiple principles of a liberal arts education. He closes his commentary with these words: “Designing curricula solely by following market trends in higher education is not “liberal” in the original sense of the word.” He further asserts that (we need to) “remind ourselves what an education in the liberal arts is or should be, and put pressure on institutions that claim they are offering such an education, all while decimating their departments and disciplines, to return to their founding charters and mission statements or else to stop using the term liberal education in their promises to current and prospective students.” (bolding from the original text).

We at FutureU believe the stakes could not be higher because program and faculty cuts are redefining historic answers to fundamental questions: What is the purpose of a college/university? What is the purpose of a college education?

On November 24, Professor Snyder, now in residence at Oxford University, will elaborate on his IHE article and draw material from his forthcoming book on the purpose of a liberal arts education. Here is an overview of his presentation.

The last five years have seen unprecedented closures of liberal arts colleges, the elimination of liberal arts programs and faculty positions, and political attacks on liberal arts degrees and courses in the humanities. One reason that the liberal arts are so vulnerable is the great diversity of disciplines represented and, hence, the difficulty in defining and defending a liberal education. In his presentation, Professor Snyder will present a list of Principles of a Liberal Arts Education, hoping to generate lively discussion and debate and move us closer to presenting a more unified front against the serious political and economic pressures we face throughout American higher education.

Professor Snyder

In 2011, Christopher A. Snyder became the founding dean of the Shackouls Honors College at Mississippi State University. He is a Professor of History and Director of British Studies at MSU and a visiting research fellow at Oriel College, University of Oxford. He just completed his Senior John Henry Newman Scholar residency at Pittsburgh’s National Institute for Newman Studies. He is part of the inaugural cohort of Inklings Project Fellows, affiliated with the University of Notre Dame. His M.A. and Ph.D. in Medieval History are from Emory University. In addition to Emory, he has taught at the College of William & Mary and at Marymount University, where he served for nine years as Chair of the Department of History and Politics and for five years as Director of the Honors Program. He is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and a Distinguished Alumnus of the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences at West Virginia University, where he majored in Medieval & Renaissance Studies. Dr. Snyder has authored ten books and numerous articles in archaeology, history, literary criticism, ethics, and medieval studies. His most recent research has been in the history of the University of Oxford and on the influences of Oxford and Cambridge on American higher education. Dr. Snyder has also lectured frequently at the Smithsonian Institution and has appeared on the History Channel, The Learning Channel, the National Geographic Channel, and BBC television and radio.

Professor Lenardic

Professor Adrian Lenardic, Department of Earth, Environment, and Planetary Sciences, Rice University, who has written extensively on neoliberal influences in higher education and is a frequent contributor to FutureU, will be the forum discussant.

Professor Martinez

FutureU’s founder, Dr. Rubén O. Martinez, Michigan State University professor emeritus, will co-host the forum, along with fellow eMSU professor emeritus Frank A. Fear, who is FutureU’s Managing Editor.

You can watch the forum live FutureU’s YouTube Channel or as archived following the presentation. You can also join us live in the ZOOM Room on November 24 to participate in the discussion. If interested, please contact Dr. Fear at fear@msu.edu to obtain the ZOOM access link.

(Cover graphic courtesy The Torch)

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