Liberal Learning: Delbanco and Schwehn, Part Three

We continue our blogging about the Valparaiso University seminar on “Liberal Education in the Twenty-First Century” with our third post (see post one and post two) on Mark Schwehn’s conversation with Columbia University social critic Anthony Delbanco.

Here are some snippets from Schwehn on the subject of liberal education vs. technical/professional education:

…That is to say, you were talking earlier about skills and the need for highly technical skills to flourish in the society we have today. True enough. On the other hand, its also proverbial…that people are going to change jobs three, four, five, six, seven, eight times, and that most of the jobs people are going to go into don’t yet exist. Who knew what a webmaster was fifteen years ago? So that therefore, in a kind of curious way, the more specialized and fluid a society is, and the more the velocity of history increased, the more you need basically the capacities to learn how to learn, to have that kind of creative resourcefulness and even practical wisdom, if you will, that are very near the heart of what a good liberal education can cultivate, rather than a set of technical skills that are fine today but may not be relevant tomorrow.

Delbanco on the international (non-western) appeal of the Western tradition of liberal arts:

We’re worried about China and India, but they recognize…that there’s something about the Western tradition of critical thinking and skepticism and individualism that’s valuable. They want more of it, even as we’re giving less of it to ourselves. It’s a strange situation, isn’t it?

Next post on this topic: Schwehn and Bruce Kimball on “Religion, Liberal Education, and Professional Studies.” Stay tuned.