ERIC Number: EJ787537
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2008
Reference Count: 0
A Life of the Mind for Practice: Bridging Liberal and Professional Education
Sullivan, William M.; Rosin, Matthew S.
Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, v40 n2 p44-47 Mar-Apr 2008
American higher education finds itself in the grip of two conflicts of purpose. One engulfs the professional schools. Recent scandals in once-trusted professions, for example in finance, law, and health care, have shaken public confidence in them, and many critics of the professions worry that these scandals have occurred at least in part because professional education has become detached from the public purposes that ought to be at its center. Some professional schools have attempted to address this concern by adding courses in professional ethics, but this is an incomplete answer to a more radical challenge: how to inculcate among future professionals the ability to approach new situations with a full appreciation of the standards of behavior expected of them. Meanwhile, a second, less-visible conflict is emerging in the arts and sciences, where faculty members increasingly find themselves asked about the practical relevance of their teaching. Many respond by claiming that the arts and sciences cultivate critical thinking, an intellectual skill that is central to modern living, but this too is an incomplete answer to a more radical challenge. What college graduates need is not only the ability to stand back from experience in order to analyze it but also the capacity to engage experience meaningfully, using analytic tools, theory, and knowledge. These two conflicts may seem at first to have little to do with one another. Indeed, teachers in the liberal arts may feel especially threatened by what they are apt to see as the practical bent of their counterparts in the professional fields. They fear that the public's demands for relevance will reduce liberal education to vocational training. Faculty in the professional schools, for their part, may feel caught between the demands for practical relevance and the need to emphasize the more "academic," purely theoretical facets of their work to preserve their fields' hardwon legitimacy in the university. In this article,the authors propose a different approach. They believe that the professions and the liberal arts and sciences need one another to realize their deepest potential and to answer the public questions that currently challenge them. Underlying their proposal is a different understanding of the purposes of higher education than the one that lies behind the professional/liberal-arts split. Their approach draws on a venerable tradition in Western thought that has receded from view in much of the academy: the exercise of practical reason.
Descriptors: Higher Education, College Graduates, Sciences, Ethics, Faculty, Teaching Methods, Professional Education, General Education, Critical Thinking
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Higher Education
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