Gen Ed on My Mind

AGLS will invite a series of association officers, members and guests to write short essays on current general education issues and matters of the day. Our aim is to have a new essay every 6 weeks. Past essays will be archived online for a year, then in association offices. Have something on your mind? Contact us at execdir@agls.org to find out how to share your ponderings.

Welcome to Gen Ed on My Mind

Joyce Lucke - Monday, May 19, 2014
Welcome to Gen Ed on My Mind!

Our first post goes back to nearly a decade before the origins of AGLS. For more than 50 years the value of a liberal arts education has been discussed. And AGLS has been there as a part of the conversation. We begin our pondering with a short piece by the ultimate STEM scholar.


Education for Independent Thought
from the New York Times, October 5, 1952

It is not enough to teach man a specialty. Through it he may become a kind of useful machine but not a harmoniously developed personality. It is essential that the student acquire an understanding of and a lively feeling for values. He must acquire a vivid sense of the beautiful and of the morally good. Otherwise he--with his specialized knowledge--more closely resembles a well-trained dog than a harmoniously developed person. He must learn to understand the motives of human beings, their illusions, and their sufferings in order to acquire a proper relationship to individual fellow-men and to community.

These precious things are conveyed to the younger generation through personal contact with those who teach, not--or at least not in the main--through textbooks. It is this that primarily constitutes and preserves culture. This is what I have in mind when I recommend the "humanities" as important, not just dry specialized knowledge in the field of history and philosophy.

Overemphasis on the competitive system and premature specialization on the ground of immediate usefulness kills the spirit on which all cultural life depends, specialized knowledge included.

It is also vital to a valuable education that independent critical thinking be developed in the young human being, a development that is greatly jeopardized by overburdening him with too much and with too varied subjects (point system). Overburdening necessarily leads to superficiality. Teaching should be such that what is offered is perceived as a valuable gift and not as a hard duty.


~Albert Einstein


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