People

What I'm Reading: ‘In Defense of a Liberal Education’

May 08, 2016

G.T. (Buck) Smith
In In Defense of a Liberal Education, Fareed Zakaria writes that learning "how to write clearly, how to express yourself convincingly, and how to think analytically" are the prime virtues of education. These are almost exactly what many of us at small liberal-arts colleges hope for our own students as well.

Clearly, we’re onto something of timeless value. We had best keep at it without apology or deviation.

This of course is not an easy thing. But we will shortchange our students greatly if "getting a job" is all we prepare them for. Instead, we must do for them what Mr. Zakaria says one of his professors at Yale did for him: "He made me realize that I should take my passion seriously, even without being sure what it might lead to in terms of a profession."

Tell Us What Writings Have Inspired You

College administrators and faculty members are invited to contribute to What I’m Reading by answering this question: What have you read lately that is insightful and useful to you as you think about higher education? Send submissions of 150 to 200 words to people@chronicle.com. Writing guidelines can be found here.

 Discovering, and then following, one’s passion is what going to college should be all about. In an age when many people espouse the idea that small colleges are no longer relevant, that students can learn all they need to know at a distance and in isolation, our students and faculty know a different truth: that the bond between teacher and student, scholar and apprentice-scholar, is critical to the journey of the mind and heart.

For another president's perspective on Mr. Zakaria's book, see this essay.

G.T. (Buck) Smith is president of Davis & Elkins College. He wrote a longer version of this essay in a letter to the campus community.