Research Push Needs a Liberal
by Chris Toumey, in The State
(October 14, 2004)
Chris Toumey, a professor of anthropology
at the University of South Carolina (USC), recently editorialized
in The State on the continuing relevance of liberal
arts education. "The genius of American higher education,"
he writes, "is the idea that the liberal arts prepare young
people to become valuable members of society by teaching them
how to think." But according to Toumey, this idea is in decline.
In the 1980s, liberal arts courses increasingly came to be
seen as "frivolous requirements" that merely "delayed students
from getting into their occupations," and more recently, they
have been affected by the growing pressure on universities
to focus on income-generating scientific research. At USC
and other state universities, the "tension between the excitement
of scientific research and the pain of seeing the erosion
of liberal arts education" has become pronounced.
Rather than dwelling on the diminishment
of the "liberal arts ethos," however, Toumey suggests that
liberal arts faculty should take advantage of opportunities
offered by the new situation. "Many scientists are shockingly
unaware of the societal implications of their work," he says,
and liberal arts faculty can play an important role by researching
the "ethical, legal, and social implications" of scientific
work in such areas as genomics and nanotech. Interdisciplinary
programs that approach science from the perspective of the
liberal arts in this sense "represent a way for the liberal
arts to secure a future at the heart of a research university"--and
a way of transforming "the tension between scientific research
and the liberal arts . . . from pain to creativity."
The full text of Chris Toumey’s
editorial is available on The
State’s Web site.
| Feature |
Facts & Figures | News
& Events | Perspectives
| On the Road |