Are We Teaching Our Kids How to Earn…or How to Think?

The important role education plays in our society is slowly creeping back into our national and political conversation.  One example is President Barack Obama’s speech at the University of Michigan, urging colleges to stay focused on the task of offering students affordable education.

Educating and training the next generation for jobs in today’s global market place is indeed one of the goals of higher education.  But I have always believed in and was raised to appreciate the concept of education for education’s sake.  That phrase was drilled into my head by my father.  Education, he always said, was something no one could take away from you. He was raised in a time when a liberal arts education meant the training of the mind to think and reason…and to reflect upon history.  All were important aspects of education.  He passed that ideal down to his children and grandchildren.

That’s why I am delighted the book Why Choose The Liberal Arts? by Professor Mark William Roche was recently named winner of the 2011 Frederic W. Ness Book Award from the Association of American Colleges and Universities.  The following is from the review of the book:

In his book, Roche develops three overlapping arguments for a strong liberal arts education: first, the intrinsic value of learning for its own sake, including exploration of the profound questions that give meaning to life; second, the cultivation of intellectual virtues necessary for success beyond the academy; and third, the formative influence of the liberal arts on character and on the development of a sense of higher purpose and vocation.

To educate the mind and the soul is an important part of education too often overlooked.  How many Fortune 100 companies or multi-national corporations today ask: “Does what we do give meaning to life?” or “Does what we provide to the markets develop a sense of higher purpose?”

Kudos to Professor Roche for having the courage and wisdom to remind us: “If we reduce the purpose of education to that of getting a job, we have failed to adorn it with higher meaning. Even more than awakening a deeper meaning in work, a liberal arts education gives graduates a direction for life.”

As I look at the economic world around us today, I wonder how and why we let the importance of a liberal arts education fade. Certainly, there is more to life than “stock holder value,” “return on investment” and “short term gain.”

More “Liberal Arts” Reading

If you’re looking for other books that will refresh your mind and soul and probably offer you little on how to invest your money, how to increase your stock portfolio, or how to worry about whether you’ll have enough money when you retire, may we suggest the following?  All of these books are authored or edited by the “wisdom voices” we have been fortunate to interview over the past year.  They make for great reading anytime, especially during these months when the winds of winter force many of us into bouts of cabin fever.

Healing the Heart of Democracy, by Parker J. Palmer

The book examines ways to restore the infrastructure of American politics and offers us a way to reclaim democracy for “We the People.”  Palmer points us to a politics rooted in the commonwealth of creativity and courage.  At this critical moment in American life, Palmer looks with realism and hope at how to deal with our political tensions for the sake of the common good.

All That We Share: A Field Guide to the Commons, Edited by Jay Walljasper

Reading this book will help inspire you to see the world in a new way. As soon as you realize that some things belong to everyone—water, for instance, or the Internet or human knowledge—you become a commoner, part of a movement that’s reshaping how we will solve the problems facing us in the twenty-first century.

Check out the link for details on current specials available on All That We Share.

Playing Bigger Than You Are:  A Life In Organizing, by Stewart Acuff.

The passion of author Stewart Acuff is wonderfully articulated in his look back over 30 years of activism.  In the book’s foreword, Senator Bernie Sanders trumpets the work of one of the union movement’s strongest voices by saying the following:

“Playing Bigger Than You Are is above all a story of hope’s triumph against all odds. At this challenging time in our nation’s history it is a story we can learn much from.”



A Persistent Peace:  One Man’s Struggle For A Nonviolent World, by John Dear, S. J.

This autobiography invites readers to follow the decades-long journey and spiritual growth of a nationally known peace activist, and to witness his bold, decisive, often unpopular actions before government officials, military higher-ups, and even representatives of the Church.










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