In Defense of a Liberal Education

In Defense of a Liberal Education

by Fareed Zakaria


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780393247688
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 03/30/2015
Pages: 208
Sales rank: 397,541
Product dimensions: 5.70(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Fareed Zakaria has been called "the most influential foreign policy adviser of his generation" (Esquire). He is the Emmy-nominated host of CNN's Fareed Zakaria GPS, contributing editor for The Atlantic, a columnist for the Washington Post, and the best-selling author of The Post-American World and The Future of Freedom. He lives in New York City.

Table of Contents

1 Coming to America 15

2 A Brief History of Liberal Education 40

3 Learning to Think 72

4 The Natural Aristocracy 106

5 Knowledge and Power 135

6 In Defense of Today's Youth 150

Notes 171

Acknowledgments 201

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In Defense of a Liberal Education 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is an amazing book! And it's urgently needed. Zakaria examines the question, what makes American education distintive? He points out that, unlike in Europe and Asia, where skills-based learning was always the norm, America emphasized a broad, general education. And that breath has been the key to its success -- creating strong basic skill,s fostering creativity and marrying science to society. He begins the book with a fascinating personal chapter in which he recounts growing up in India in the 1970s, where technology was the only path for smart kids. He then takes you on a "brief history of liberal education" and develops his own ideas for what makes for the best kind of training. The next few chapters are on the ways in which education can create the strongest skills you need -- thinking, writing, learning, becoming a citizen. (He has a superb chapter on Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson and their views on the topic.) And the book ends with my favorite , a rousing defense of today's youth. Taking shots at the many critiques of today's kids -- career crazy, soulless, etc. -- he points out that all the evidence disproves these caricatures. Today's younger generation are success oriented but also serviice oriented. They reflect the non-ideological times we live in, where technology and globalization are the topics of the day, not communism and capitalism. And they do care about more than making money. The book is an easy read -- Zakaria writes elegantly -- but it covers an astonishing range of topics. You will end the book feeling that you have gotten a world class liberal education.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have just started this book and its fascinating…….I totally agree with him! ….. a good, interesting read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The second review by the psych major proves the author's point. The reviewer apparently slept through his English classes. Not the run-on sentences with commas where there should be semi-colons or periods. Iknow several psych types with master's degrees who are emplyed as counselors in both school and clinical settings.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Booker-Book-Review More than 1 year ago
Mr. Fareed Zakaria defends the liberal education. He explores its brief history and how it has changed over the years and how a liberal arts education has been under assault by politicians and others. Zakaria is unique in his approach because he is from India; he compares and contrasts how students are taught in America v. India. Indeed, his book not only provides good sources of information, but he writes from a personal point of view. However, it is not a scholarly book, it is a good place to start for anyone interested in what is a liberal education and what kind of education we have today. Since Zakaria often writes in first person, his book is prone to generalizing, especially at the end. He moves from specifics (e.g. statistics to opinions) that often has no bases in reality.  Perhaps, the best part of Zakaria’s book is how he shows the sheer assault on liberal arts have taken over the years. Even in the nineteenth century many would ask the question, “What is all this knowledge good for,” (71)? I fact, in 1828 Yale College defended the liberal arts, they issued the classical curriculum, in that, a liberal arts education is to learn how to think. Today, colleges and universities largely focus on job-related courses; degrees that would develop skills with the aim of landing a good job or career. Zakaria seems to suggest that this is all fine and well, but the large body of graduates do not have the ability to communicate well – although he never stated as such. The assault on liberal education has been unrelenting. For instance, four states (Florida, Texas, North Carolina, and Wisconsin) want to stop subsidizing liberal arts in state funded colleges and universities.  Many politicians today, both Republicans and Democrats, blame liberal arts education majors for the lack of a skilled work force – moreover, they believe it is a waste of tax-payers money. Yet, Zakaria brings out that the gap between those who are liberal art majors and skill/work oriented majors is huge. He argues, “Only about 1.8 percent of all undergraduates attend liberal arts colleges. . . . As you can see, we do not have an oversupply of students studying history, literature, philosophy, or physics and math for that matter. A majority is specializing in fields because they see them as directly related to the job market.” In other words, virtually every college student is majoring in courses that has a direct link to a specific job, and the lack of a good education cannot be blamed on students majoring in liberal arts. Zakaria brings out the history of a liberal arts education, starting with the Greeks moving along to the present day. There are at least five qualities to the liberal arts education: (1) learn to think, (2) learn how to read critically, (3) learn how to write well, (4) learn to speak well, and (5) it teaches you how to learn. When a student majors in degrees that only focuses him/her on a specific skill or area, it deprives that individual of the broader disciplines of a well-rounded mind, with the capacity to communicate well and often without the desire to learn more.  Zakaria defends a liberal arts education with clarity. His book is well written, but at times he grossly over generalizes, especially close to the end of his book. For instance, he claims that students today are less concerned with theorizing (e.g. communism v. capitalism) than they were in the early nineteen eighties because of globalization and economic forces. I would be remiss if I did not raise an objection at this point. There are just as many major issues today than there were in the nineteen eighties: 9/11, the middle-east wars, direct existential threats to the United States, ideological issues between the west and the east. Furthermore, the main difference for students today than thirty years ago is that they have too many distractions. For instance, cell phones, computers, social networks, and computer games consume their minds and time.  In conclusion, Zakaria has written a thoughtful book on liberal arts education, past and present. It has many good quotes from quality sources. However, I would only recommend this book as a starter book (not a definitive book) on the history and the larger controversy of a liberal arts education. It has many gaps that need to be explored, for example, what are the major areas students are majoring in. Nevertheless, Zakaria proved his main thesis well: that the lack of well-educated graduates in America today is not the result of too many liberal arts majors, because very few students are majoring in this field. 
Chris_Moore More than 1 year ago
the problem is, if you major in something you hate, you won't make very good grades, i've ended up working within business in some capacity my whole life, and I absolutely hated my business courses...i thought the information was common sense, you didn't need to study any idiot can do it...i chose a subject i loved, but have not been able to do anything with even after a master's and completing my doctorate to dissertation...i can understand why governors would not want to pour any money into liberal arts degrees they don't typically pay off, i was hired when i graduated with my bachelor's in communication, but as a management job in business the pay stunk. after you paid rent, a 400 dollar car payment , a few credit cards, and bought food there wasn't much left. Pay today is much higher than when i graduated, but i would like to know where the 54k jobs with no experience right out of college are...because they are not advertised, any job that pays that much requires 3-5 years experience working in the same type of job that you are applying. I have found myself that business never really lived up to the anyway you go, just choose something that is needed, the world will always need engineers, it managers, etc. so those seem to be good majors...a business major will get you the grunt job where you do all the cr*ap work for an office right out of the gate.