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Liberal Education: Theory and Practice

My professional interest in the ideas and practices of liberal education began at the University of Chicago’s Committee on Social Thought, which is dedicated to the principle that “serious study of many academic topics, and of many philosophical, historical, theological and literary works, is best prepared for by a wide and deep acquaintance with the fundamental issues presupposed in all such studies” (CST). In my case, this early training established a commitment to interdisciplinary research and teaching and an ongoing scholarly interest in the fundamental principles and problems of liberal education. At Bard College, these concerns were at the center of my work with the Language and Thinking program, which I directed from 2010-2015 (details here).

Currently, I am working with the Social Sciences Research Council (SSRC) on a new initiative that aims to interrogate and strengthen links between specialized disciplinary knowledge and general liberal education, to re-consider the relationship between the social sciences and the humanities, and to promote and enhance the vitality of pedagogy in both college and university environments. My original proposal for the project, which has been adopted virtually in its entirety, is available here. After a year of planning, the first intensive retreat (Fostering Liberal Arts Knowledge and Connections), which I will co-lead with Ira Katznelson, will take place in January 2017 at Swarthmore. It will focus on the question of popular sovereignty. We intend to document the project with publications and to develop and disseminate a replicable model that can be adopted by other educators and researchers.

I have published and presented on Nietzsche’s critique of the humanist model of liberal education (here, here, and here) and I am planning to write a monograph on the theory and practice of liberal education, as discussed in this statement.