Fish: Food For Thought : Blog Of The Nation What is the purpose of a liberal arts education?
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Fish: Food For Thought

Fish: Food For Thought

Listen to this 'Talk of the Nation' topic

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The other day, I noticed a news article on the website for Williams College, where my brother is a student: "Artes Liberales: Only a select 8 percent of U.S. college students have chosen a liberal arts program. What does it mean?"

"Aside from a brief surge after World War II, the proportion of undergraduate degrees awarded each year in the liberal arts has been declining for 100 years," the piece begins. "By 1994, of the 3,941 institutions of higher education in the United States, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching classified only 202, or about 8 percent, as liberal arts colleges — that is, institutions awarding at least half their degrees in the liberal arts."

In our second hour today, Stanley Fish, Distinguished University Professor at Florida International University, joins us to talk about his newest book, Save the World On Your Own Time. In it, he argues that undergraduate institutions are not supposed to be engines of social progress. The job of professors, Fish writes, is "to advance bodies of knowledge and to equip students for doing the same."

In your opinion, what is the purpose of a liberal arts education?