A few months ago I watched on video a talk by Michael Roth, President of Wesleyan University (where I went), called “Beyond the University.” In this talk Michael lays out a framework justification for why a broad based liberal education matters. If so inclined you can watch it here. It’s great, but I am not that interested right now in the merits of that discourse, as interesting as they may be.
Instead, I’ve been thinking of that framework he lays out. He says that liberal education matters because it provides four things for individuals: the ability to liberate, animate, cooperate and instigate, in their lives and the world. More specifically,
*liberate – giving people more autonomy and be able to decide on their own destinies
*animate – helping the world come alive
*cooperate – listening to your neighbors to improve our collective lot
*instigate – the ability to instigate change in your world
My wife Susan just got back from a conference – people who were united over a medical condition and who came together, initially through blogs, Twitter, Facebook. This was the first time many of them were in the same room together – in person at this event. They didn’t describe it this way, but as I listened to the planning and heard about goings-on at the three-day conference, I realized that they too had used tools – modern, Internet based tools – to liberate themselves in part from a medical system that wasn’t paying attention, to animate what that world looks like, to work with each other, and to instigate change.