The Teagle Discussion on Re-evaluating the Undergraduate Economics Major
Edited by David Colander and KimMarie McGoldrick
Chapter 7: The Role for Depth in a Liberal Education
7. The role of depth in a liberal education Benjamin M. Friedman The issues raised by the Teagle Foundation report in Chapter 1 are serious ones, well worth engagement. The report articulates well the point of view it advances. It certainly spurred my thinking. Each of us, I suppose, comes at these questions from a particular point of view. We’re shaped by the experience of the institutions at which we’ve served, our observations of our fellow faculty members alongside whom we’ve worked, and – most of all, I think – the students we’ve taught. Some members of this group will have taught at several different institutions, and perhaps even at several different kinds of institutions (research universities, liberal arts colleges, and so on). I’ve taught at only one, and so my views are perhaps somewhat parochial. Every institution of higher education is idiosyncratic, the one I know surely no less so than others. That said, I’m skeptical of the approach taken in the report and dubious of many of its recommendations. The chief matter at issue in this regard is the role of a student’s major, whether it be economics or biology or French literature, in his or her liberal education. Too much of the report seems to be based on the view that the typical student somehow isn’t going to take courses outside his or her major. Hence the burden of achieving what we want students to get from a liberal education – breadth of thought, freedom of inquiry, exposure not just...
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