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The liberal arts are under attack. The governors of Florida, Texas, and North Carolina have all pledged that they will not spend taxpayer money subsidizing the liberal arts, and they seem to have an unlikely ally in President Obama. While at a General Electric plant in early 2014, Obama remarked, "I promise you, folks can make a lot more, potentially, with skilled manufact The liberal arts are under attack. The governors of Florida, Texas, and North Carolina have all pledged that they will not spend taxpayer money subsidizing the liberal arts, and they seem to have an unlikely ally in President Obama. While at a General Electric plant in early 2014, Obama remarked, "I promise you, folks can make a lot more, potentially, with skilled manufacturing or the trades than they might with an art history degree." These messages are hitting home: majors like English and history, once very popular and highly respected, are in steep decline. "I get it," writes Fareed Zakaria, recalling the atmosphere in India where he grew up, which was even more obsessed with getting a skills-based education. However, the CNN host and best-selling author explains why this widely held view is mistaken and shortsighted. Zakaria eloquently expounds on the virtues of a liberal arts education—how to write clearly, how to express yourself convincingly, and how to think analytically. He turns our leaders' vocational argument on its head. American routine manufacturing jobs continue to get automated or outsourced, and specific vocational knowledge is often outdated within a few years. Engineering is a great profession, but key value-added skills you will also need are creativity, lateral thinking, design, communication, storytelling, and, more than anything, the ability to continually learn and enjoy learning—precisely the gifts of a liberal education. Zakaria argues that technology is transforming education, opening up access to the best courses and classes in a vast variety of subjects for millions around the world. We are at the dawn of the greatest expansion of the idea of a liberal education in human history.


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The liberal arts are under attack. The governors of Florida, Texas, and North Carolina have all pledged that they will not spend taxpayer money subsidizing the liberal arts, and they seem to have an unlikely ally in President Obama. While at a General Electric plant in early 2014, Obama remarked, "I promise you, folks can make a lot more, potentially, with skilled manufact The liberal arts are under attack. The governors of Florida, Texas, and North Carolina have all pledged that they will not spend taxpayer money subsidizing the liberal arts, and they seem to have an unlikely ally in President Obama. While at a General Electric plant in early 2014, Obama remarked, "I promise you, folks can make a lot more, potentially, with skilled manufacturing or the trades than they might with an art history degree." These messages are hitting home: majors like English and history, once very popular and highly respected, are in steep decline. "I get it," writes Fareed Zakaria, recalling the atmosphere in India where he grew up, which was even more obsessed with getting a skills-based education. However, the CNN host and best-selling author explains why this widely held view is mistaken and shortsighted. Zakaria eloquently expounds on the virtues of a liberal arts education—how to write clearly, how to express yourself convincingly, and how to think analytically. He turns our leaders' vocational argument on its head. American routine manufacturing jobs continue to get automated or outsourced, and specific vocational knowledge is often outdated within a few years. Engineering is a great profession, but key value-added skills you will also need are creativity, lateral thinking, design, communication, storytelling, and, more than anything, the ability to continually learn and enjoy learning—precisely the gifts of a liberal education. Zakaria argues that technology is transforming education, opening up access to the best courses and classes in a vast variety of subjects for millions around the world. We are at the dawn of the greatest expansion of the idea of a liberal education in human history.

30 review for In Defense of a Liberal Education

  1. 4 out of 5

    HBalikov

    This isn’t a long read or a difficult read but I found myself lingering over various parts of Zakaria’s arguments concerning the value of the liberal arts and the liberal education. There are several elements to this book and they are not always handled separately and distinctly. First there is Zakaria’s own educational biography, or how he came from India to study in the USA. There is enough included to allow us to think about all the other foreign students that have found our higher education att This isn’t a long read or a difficult read but I found myself lingering over various parts of Zakaria’s arguments concerning the value of the liberal arts and the liberal education. There are several elements to this book and they are not always handled separately and distinctly. First there is Zakaria’s own educational biography, or how he came from India to study in the USA. There is enough included to allow us to think about all the other foreign students that have found our higher education attractive and what they have contributed to us by coming here. Second, there are a lot of “facts and figures” about our education and how it compares to other countries. This is a necessary foundation for discussing the “liberal education.” Zakaria does not seem to “cherry pick” what he presents to us. Finally, there are his arguments about the value of a liberal education. Chief among those is that this type of education has made an undervalued contribution to the USA’s creativity and willingness to explore that more vocationally oriented programs omit. Some of the points that I found resonated with my own observations and experiences: He doesn’t believe that the liberal education is for everybody. It is only that those who desire to pursue less specifically vocational degrees should be allowed to do so. He avoids a common cliché by not stating that a liberal education “teaches you to think.” Though he points out that one of the key strengths of such an education is that it “teaches you to how write, and that makes you think.” He quotes Bertrand Russell on the difference between science and philosophy: “Science is what we know, and philosophy is what we don’t know.” This leads to his point that the search for knowledge has provided humankind with power. He points out that when he was going to school there were big ideological debates, such as the one pitting capitalism against communism. Those do not resonate with today’s students. He leaves us with some questions (in this present world of technology, globalization and capitalism) about their willingness to focus on virtue. And, if nothing else, the liberal education is about raising questions and considering consequences.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Chuck

    If you are going to read just a single book about liberal arts education, this is the most approachable. This is a pithy little contribution to the list of books endorsing liberal arts education. Zakaria is an interesting non-university voice in the conversation. The internationalism of his experience adds another dimension. It's not quite as intellectual a book as some of the others on liberal arts education (Nussbaum, Roth, etc.), but it's worth two and a half hours of your time.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Laura Leaney

    A short, lucid book that articulates Zakaria's thoughts on the significance of a liberal education. This is not "liberal" as in politically left and squishy of thought, but "liberal" in the sense of the Yale report he quotes: "the essence of a liberal education is 'not to teach that which is peculiar to any one of the professions; but to lay the foundation which is common to them all.'" There is nothing in the book to disagree with. Studying subjects such as literature, history, and philosophy w A short, lucid book that articulates Zakaria's thoughts on the significance of a liberal education. This is not "liberal" as in politically left and squishy of thought, but "liberal" in the sense of the Yale report he quotes: "the essence of a liberal education is 'not to teach that which is peculiar to any one of the professions; but to lay the foundation which is common to them all.'" There is nothing in the book to disagree with. Studying subjects such as literature, history, and philosophy will make you a more humane, more interesting, much smarter scientist, physician, or mathematician. The total disregard of these subjects because they are not directly tied into lucrative professions will - I think - make the world a very poor place indeed. The chapter I most liked is the one entitled "Learning to Think." This chapter is about writing as central to thinking. I enjoyed the wonderful quotes Zakaria wove into his narrative and especially the one story about the columnist Walter Lippmann, who was once asked for his opinion on a topic. "He is said to have replied, 'I don't know what I think on that one. I haven't written about it yet.'" It's this chapter that shows the strongest correlation between a liberal education and learning how to think. Although I was never very good in mathematics (my mother despaired of me and farmed me out to tutors), I'm certain that all the classes I took that I knew were "irrelevant" to my future forced my brain to grow in ways I could not perceive. The author includes many interesting statistics about what we might lose by snickering at a liberal arts degree. He quotes Steve Jobs, who said: "it is in Apple's DNA that technology alone is not enough. It's technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that makes our hearts sing." I couldn't agree more.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Joe Robles

    I remember watching Jon Stewart interview Marco Rubio and Rubio was arguing for sensible education. Words to the effect of, "Do we need more Greek History majors?" The argument is that people shouldn't go to college for knowledge, but to acquire a marketable skill. The insistence is on learning a trade of some sort. I come from a poor family, but I went to college primarily to learn something. All my life I dreamed of learning for learning sake. Not taking classes where I had to fill out some st I remember watching Jon Stewart interview Marco Rubio and Rubio was arguing for sensible education. Words to the effect of, "Do we need more Greek History majors?" The argument is that people shouldn't go to college for knowledge, but to acquire a marketable skill. The insistence is on learning a trade of some sort. I come from a poor family, but I went to college primarily to learn something. All my life I dreamed of learning for learning sake. Not taking classes where I had to fill out some stupid worksheet, or regurgitate some information, but discuss big ideas. I eventually received my BA in Psychology from the University of Texas at Austin, the biggest school that I could afford (with student loans paying for everything). I didn't get a job in psychology, I work for a family-owned retail chain. I'm really good at my job, because of the reasons that Fareed Zakaria lays out in this book. I was taught how to study, learn, interpret data, conduct experiments, and love learning. I wanted to make films, but I felt getting a degree in film would be like learning a trade. I wanted to expand my mind and learn things I never knew before, which is why psychology was so fascinating. I minored in English, again, a discipline that requires you to make compelling arguments in written form. To defend a thesis by supporting it with research. Why would you ever need that in business? To the opening question of Marco Rubio, "Do we need more Greek History majors?" I say, yes. If we do not help people learn about Greek History, or American History, then only the elite will have access to this knowledge. Essentially what Rubio and other politicians, both Republican and Democrat, are saying is that if you're poor, you don't deserve to learn anything that would enrich your life. You don't deserve to have your mind expanded. You should have been born to a rich family if you wanted to study art, what were you thinking? Turns out this idea I had of everyone having access to the education they want is not new, Thomas Jefferson had it first. He, too, was afraid of only elites having access to education and forming an unnatural aristocracy of birth, wealth, and privilege. I believe Mr. Zakaria makes a compelling case for the need for a well-rounded liberal arts education. I know I've benefitted well from mine, and so have my bosses, and the many employees who benefit from the revenue I've helped generate. But most importantly my life is much enriched by the knowledge I gained at U.T. and the love of learning it left me with.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Michael Austin

    First off, I like Fareed Zakaria--especially his book The Future of Freedom, which is a nuanced, intelligent analysis of modern democracy in practice, which is very different than modern democracy in theory. He is a learned and engaging writer whose books have, in the past, come close to being actually important and even necessary for those who want to understand the world. I also like liberal education. I am a liberal educator. I majored in English three times and didn't know if I would ever hav First off, I like Fareed Zakaria--especially his book The Future of Freedom, which is a nuanced, intelligent analysis of modern democracy in practice, which is very different than modern democracy in theory. He is a learned and engaging writer whose books have, in the past, come close to being actually important and even necessary for those who want to understand the world. I also like liberal education. I am a liberal educator. I majored in English three times and didn't know if I would ever have a job, which, in fact, I do. I have spent my career at liberal arts colleges and universities grappling with many of the issues that Zakaria foregrounds in this book. I welcome defenses of liberal education and liberal arts by public intellectuals. All that said, In Defense of a Liberal Education was a very disappointing book. Worse, it is a book that did not need to exist and that, I suspect, was written and published only because the author was famous enough to write an publish it. It contains enough good material for a good blog post or a half a dozen tweets. It has no business being a book. In the first place, it quickly abandons its core purpose, to defend liberal education, to explore barely related tangents. It is already a short book. And almost all of it is boilerplate filler of the sort that can be copied and pasted by quickly searching "value of liberal education" on the nearest computer terminal. It includes a long, and fairly inaccurate history of liberal education and a lot of statistics about how employers really want to hire people who can read and write and think. Zakaria goes on to talk about education and the idea of American democracy and then ends with an encomium to today's young people, defending "millennials" from charges of spiritual emptiness and basically telling young people that they can stand on his lawn any time. All of the things that Zakaria does here are worth doing, but he does not do any of them very well. Two of his middle chapters--"Learning to Think" and "The Natural Aristocracy"--could have been very important if he had drilled down beneath the cliches. But, really, not going beyond cliches is kind of the main plan of the book. The biggest problem with In Defense of a Liberal Education, however, is that, when it actually does defend liberal education, it does so on the wrong basis. Like university administrators everywhere, Zakaria defends liberal education on fundamentally illiberal grounds: people should study English and philosophy and history because it will help them become better widget-makers--because they learn about critical thinking and teamwork, which will help them get good jobs and add value to the economy. All of this is at least arguably true, but I feel strongly that it is the wrong way to defend a category of education that, by design, is not supposed to care what you do with it. The ultimate point of reading history, literature, or of learning how to think like a scientist or a mathematician is not to add value to the economy--it is to learn things that are good to know, that connect us to the rest of humanity. Learning stuff is fun and cool all by itself. Knowledge is its own end. This is the great lesson of Newman's Idea of a University, which Zakaria quotes a lot but does not really seem to understand. When you defend liberal education on purely utilitarian grounds, you have already lost the argument because you have conceded the main point, which is that things like education have to be useful to the economy and negotiable in the marketplace. It is a common defense, but it is, in my opinion, the wrong one, and a dangerous place to make our stand.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Eden

    This book happened to be on my list at the right time. I was an English major and so far have not gone on to pursue a Masters because there isn't anything I'm passionate enough about where I know I would start it and complete it. After yet another job rejection, I was feeling really down and wished I had gone to a different school or had majored in something else, but Fareed Zakaria and this informative book made me realize I have plenty of skills to succeed in the world, even if the job search This book happened to be on my list at the right time. I was an English major and so far have not gone on to pursue a Masters because there isn't anything I'm passionate enough about where I know I would start it and complete it. After yet another job rejection, I was feeling really down and wished I had gone to a different school or had majored in something else, but Fareed Zakaria and this informative book made me realize I have plenty of skills to succeed in the world, even if the job search is still ongoing. My liberal arts education gave me the tools to analyze and criticize, to see the world and events from others perspectives, and the proper social tools to sympathize and empathize with others in a professional setting. Communication and problem-solving skills, the ability to "read people", and a developing sense of social awareness and activism are among the facets provided me by my liberal education. At one point in this book Fareed mentioned how a liberal education, while it may not provided the technical, skills-based trades needed right away in the work force, a liberal education provides the skills needed to lead a life worth living, which made me tear up when I heard it because it is true. My ability to read a ranging genre of literature and films from different culture and my increasing fascination with world news and history occurred because of the courses in English, literature, social sciences such as sociology, psychology, and human services studies, that I took. My favorite pass times are watching films, reading books, writing (both creatively and self-reflectively). Never being naturally inclined in math or science, to this day, I'm not sure what else I could have majored in besides English, except perhaps Communications, but I cannot go back and I'm starting to accept that. There are times when I wish I had done courses at my community college first and then transferred elsewhere (and it doesn't hurt that I live a couple miles away from the best community college in the US), but I still may take courses there one day for a certification or a topic of interest and I know that opportunity is still there for me for the future. One of the points of a liberal education is to add to it at some point and to keep learning. A liberal education teaches you that you do not know everything and it teaches you how to learn, giving someone the confidence that it's never too late to go back to school or to better yourself. Fareed pointed out different statistics and facts about foreign countries, particularly Asian cultures and how they approach education. They go to school more days out of the year and are focused heavily on skills based learning such as math, science, and technology. And in terms of how liberal education is applied in the US, it's not necessarily that it's being applied is a problem but HOW it's applied. The professors have to be engaged and more challenging than just classes where it could be conceived as ok to mess around. Interesting read, especially if you're interested in this topic. There are probably more specific instances I could reference after a second listen, but this is a timely read!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Steve Peifer

    In which a son of privilege explains why liberal education is important while ignoring that because of the huge costs associated with higher education the middle class and poor are virtually forced to be practical to survive. If you love irony, he quotes this in his book without any sense of self awareness: The education system is an increasingly powerful mechanism for the intergenerational reproduction of privilege.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Dawn

    I listened to this audio while I was hauling branches and schlepping fronds the day after Hurricane Irma. And, as expected, it was a big case of preaching to the choir. I believe that my liberal education was one of the best things that ever happened to me, and am very grateful that I was educated at a time in this country when it was still the norm. Fareed Zakaria

  9. 4 out of 5

    LauraW

    I think this book has some good points, but they didn't seem to be clearly presented - for me, at least. One member of our book group agreed with me; another one completely disagreed; the rest were somewhere in between. I grew up in an education-oriented home. My mother was a teacher; my father was a member of first the local school board and later the county school board. Together they helped found a statewide association for gifted children. Education through college was expected (and achieved I think this book has some good points, but they didn't seem to be clearly presented - for me, at least. One member of our book group agreed with me; another one completely disagreed; the rest were somewhere in between. I grew up in an education-oriented home. My mother was a teacher; my father was a member of first the local school board and later the county school board. Together they helped found a statewide association for gifted children. Education through college was expected (and achieved) for all four of their children. But, in a way, those expectations and privilege meant that I didn't feel the pressure to go after education myself. It was just taken for granted. I enjoyed school and did well at it, but I never had to work very hard at defining what I wanted out of it. It was an expected path that I dutifully followed and did as was expected of me. Thus, some of the advantages this book touts, e.g., learning how to think critically and to write well, didn't seem like huge targets. I could write well and I wasn't sure what thinking critically really meant. I could analyze, I could make arguments. But I wasn't especially intellectually engaged. In some ways, I think undergraduate education is wasted on new adults. They need to learn the liberal arts skills of thinking critically, writing well, making arguments verbally, etc., which is the point of this book, but they DO need specific job skills, too. As an older adult now, I crave a more active role in my own education. Some of the things that I wish I had more of are the very things that Zakaria thinks I should have gotten as a liberal arts student, but which I undervalued at the time. Now that I am retired, I am taking several short classes and I find them worthwhile. I would like even more. At my age, I am ready for seminars, for arguments about subjects. I get a lot of this on Facebook, interestingly. There is also a lot of less useful stuff there, but I am finding a community of like-minded people to talk to there. Maybe Facebook is liberal arts education for some of us.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jane Dugger

    I began this short book with the intention of not liking it and disagreeing with the premise. However, I found myself nodding my head at different things and thinking perhaps it isn't so bad a "Liberal Education." I guess what I really absorbed is the point of a liberal education is to teach one how to think. And of course I am a huge fan of thinking. But also a liberal education is a way to make society more cohesive - think of the "One City, One Book" programs ten or so years ago. In a society I began this short book with the intention of not liking it and disagreeing with the premise. However, I found myself nodding my head at different things and thinking perhaps it isn't so bad a "Liberal Education." I guess what I really absorbed is the point of a liberal education is to teach one how to think. And of course I am a huge fan of thinking. But also a liberal education is a way to make society more cohesive - think of the "One City, One Book" programs ten or so years ago. In a society where we idealize the individual and finding your own path (which I support) this is an avenue that could help unite our nation and become a stronger community. Please note: I am still a fan of STEM and practical skills and aptitude testing but let's not just do that and let's not just have liberal education. I need to do more research about the Yale-NUS program but I think having a two year community (liberal studies) degree then decide on a practical field might be a better option. This book is ripe for discussion.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kat

    I ardently support this book's thesis. But if one goal of a liberal education is to think for yourself, then it seems fair that I take a more critical stance. The book contains many interesting examples (I especially liked the one about art history improving observation skills among medical students), but also a ton of anecdotes and digressions that don't address the key questions that would've really made its argument compelling. Questions like: what is a liberal education? What are the issues I ardently support this book's thesis. But if one goal of a liberal education is to think for yourself, then it seems fair that I take a more critical stance. The book contains many interesting examples (I especially liked the one about art history improving observation skills among medical students), but also a ton of anecdotes and digressions that don't address the key questions that would've really made its argument compelling. Questions like: what is a liberal education? What are the issues of our age? And how might a liberal education enable us to better rise to those challenges? At times, the book's logical links feel incomplete - which undermines its (very valid) point that clear writing/thinking is a key outcome of a liberal education.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Cindy Rollins

    A Short, interesting treatise on the liberal arts. This book approached a subject that is dear to my heart from a completely different angle than what I am usually interested in but, in turn, this gave me new things to think about. I liked his hopeful attitude towards the future and his understanding of the downfalls of cultures obsessed with assessment. He had a unique perspective on America's dismal showing in educational rankings which sounded plausible. This is not a Christian look at the lib A Short, interesting treatise on the liberal arts. This book approached a subject that is dear to my heart from a completely different angle than what I am usually interested in but, in turn, this gave me new things to think about. I liked his hopeful attitude towards the future and his understanding of the downfalls of cultures obsessed with assessment. He had a unique perspective on America's dismal showing in educational rankings which sounded plausible. This is not a Christian look at the liberal arts but, rather, in many ways a utilitarian argument. I do think I will listen to it more than once.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Kris - My Novelesque Life

    3 STARS Fareed Zakaria lays out the reason why a Liberal education is still important in the United States even though the President is encouraging high school grads towards trades. This was a very short book so while the points were outlined the reason is sometimes too brief. It might be just me but it seems like he takes it for granted that the reader is from the States and does not explain some things.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Samuel

    The author of this book mentions a couple of arguments why liberal education is important and why we should not dismiss it from higher education. However, the link between the content of the chapters is sometimes lost. The author tells the history of liberal education and the philosophy of some historical figures with great depth, but as a reader, one can easily forget that the main objective of the author is to defend the concept of liberal education. In the final chpater, he describes the diff The author of this book mentions a couple of arguments why liberal education is important and why we should not dismiss it from higher education. However, the link between the content of the chapters is sometimes lost. The author tells the history of liberal education and the philosophy of some historical figures with great depth, but as a reader, one can easily forget that the main objective of the author is to defend the concept of liberal education. In the final chpater, he describes the difference between the millenials and the elder generation regarding the life goals and that people nowadays often don't think about the meaning of life and suggests that people therefore in these times need liberal education, which could be considered a bit far fetched. Note that in some countries the concept of liberal education is unknown, which makes the title untranslatable for other languages. Therefore, the title could be a bit misleading, as it is in the Dutch translation.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Lee Underwood

    Brief and impactful. This book offers a number of ways to inject powerful arguments into the otherwise batshit crazy conversations I often find myself in about why my students and their parents shun the humanities. Most of my students see them selves as high achieving STEM students, more from misconceived conditioning by our school system rather than personal identification. Zakaria constructs some powerful arguments about how even the best scientists, mathematicians, and engineers of our time e Brief and impactful. This book offers a number of ways to inject powerful arguments into the otherwise batshit crazy conversations I often find myself in about why my students and their parents shun the humanities. Most of my students see them selves as high achieving STEM students, more from misconceived conditioning by our school system rather than personal identification. Zakaria constructs some powerful arguments about how even the best scientists, mathematicians, and engineers of our time earn the title with an immense helping of serious and thoughtful study of the arts. Although I would have liked a more full throated defense of the intrinsic value of the teaching of literature against the relentless tide of Silicon Valley “edutainment” snake oil salespeople promoting the next best online program to my district leaders, I felt satisfied with zakaria’s thesis and his robust challenge to those who would have the humanities disappear from the curriculum.

  16. 4 out of 5

    John Kaufmann

    Hurray. When I went through school in the 1960s, a liberal education was still on the agenda. However, I thought it lost its currency over the last few decades with the push toward "job skills." I was delighted to see Fareed Zakaria resurrect the concept. I am a fan, and I hope it regains some of its traction. Not that I agree 100% with Zakaria's prescriptions, but I wholeheartedly support the basic concept and the direction in which he points. Zakaria begins with a discussion of his educational Hurray. When I went through school in the 1960s, a liberal education was still on the agenda. However, I thought it lost its currency over the last few decades with the push toward "job skills." I was delighted to see Fareed Zakaria resurrect the concept. I am a fan, and I hope it regains some of its traction. Not that I agree 100% with Zakaria's prescriptions, but I wholeheartedly support the basic concept and the direction in which he points. Zakaria begins with a discussion of his educational upbringing and the value of a liberal education. He covers a few of the basic schools of thought regarding a liberal education and some of the basic issues: how much it relies upon the "Good Books"; whether it is intended to instill basic tools that will come in handy regardless of your profession; the balance between science and the humanities. He concludes by giving a few of his prescriptions. Not a great book, but it raises some important questions regarding the direction of our [higher] education system. And it's short and readable, not a ponderous book like so many in the educational field are (of course, Zakaria is not an "educator").

  17. 4 out of 5

    Stan Skrabut

    When Bernadette, my wife, returned from a trip to the Netherlands, she brought me a wonderful gift... a book. She was confident I would enjoy it because it focused on education. This book was In Defense of a Liberal Education* by Fareed Zakaria. Having just finished reading it, I found it quite interesting, especially as I related it to our current times. As I write this, a professor was removed from a plane because he was doing math, and the woman who reported him did not understand what he was When Bernadette, my wife, returned from a trip to the Netherlands, she brought me a wonderful gift... a book. She was confident I would enjoy it because it focused on education. This book was In Defense of a Liberal Education* by Fareed Zakaria. Having just finished reading it, I found it quite interesting, especially as I related it to our current times. As I write this, a professor was removed from a plane because he was doing math, and the woman who reported him did not understand what he was doing and thought it was a terrorist act. If this was an isolated incident, I would simply laugh. Unfortunately, it is not. Read more

  18. 5 out of 5

    Brady Clemens

    Zakaria brings forward a spirited defense of the liberal education in this short but wide-ranging book. Not only does he discuss the value that a liberal education provides, but he also brings in the history of U.S. education and how it contrasts with other parts of the world. Certainly much of his defense of liberal education is viewed through the lens of its usefulness for jobs and corporations, but for anyone who regularly reads or watches Fareed Zakaria, this won't come as a surprise--foreig Zakaria brings forward a spirited defense of the liberal education in this short but wide-ranging book. Not only does he discuss the value that a liberal education provides, but he also brings in the history of U.S. education and how it contrasts with other parts of the world. Certainly much of his defense of liberal education is viewed through the lens of its usefulness for jobs and corporations, but for anyone who regularly reads or watches Fareed Zakaria, this won't come as a surprise--foreign policy and related questions of economies are his strong suite. This book is well worth the time spent reading it, and those in my age range will appreciate his defense of millennials against the current, and incorrect, conventional wisdom at the end of the work.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jayash

    Zakaria provides us with facts and figures, in conjunction with his experience transitioning as an international student to the US college setting, to convince that a liberal education has several merits. One merit that stood out for me is how effective writing results in thinking, which I can relate to as a liberal arts graduate myself. An easy, quick read that one should not miss!

  20. 5 out of 5

    Blake Gilmore

    Zakaria doesn't spend as much time truly defending a liberal education as he does talking about what it is and its history. I'd have preferred a stronger defense.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Kody Carmody

    Required reading. Kind of shallow, especially later on, but only because it’s both ambitiously broad and a short read.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Dan Graser

    This brief work from Fareed Zakaria serves as a passionate defense not only of the intrinsic value of a liberal education (note, not a political term in this sense) but also functions as an example of the main point of the work, at least for me, which is the value of learning how to express yourself having synthesized the relevant information/data. Far from some otiose ivory tower means of study of devouring dated and somnolent tracts, liberal arts study is more connected to our contemporary pro This brief work from Fareed Zakaria serves as a passionate defense not only of the intrinsic value of a liberal education (note, not a political term in this sense) but also functions as an example of the main point of the work, at least for me, which is the value of learning how to express yourself having synthesized the relevant information/data. Far from some otiose ivory tower means of study of devouring dated and somnolent tracts, liberal arts study is more connected to our contemporary professional and social world than the stultified discussions of it as some sclerotic discipline in news media would suggest. Many platitudes have been shared about the need for critical thinking, or instruction not on what to think but how to think, or how to think in a non-mechanistic/automaton way since all of that thinking is actually being taken up by genuine machines/automatons these days. However, the most important point that Zakaria makes is one we have long known, about a fundamental aspect of education, that in educating people to express themselves more clearly and cogently we are not merely issuing some bland protreptic, we are enabling them to think and function more clearly and cogently. Thus, the defense of a liberal education is the defense of education which does not involve you locked away behind a screen, alone, for hours trying to memorize information that Google already provides in less than a split second. The education provided is one that enables any student to think the necessary thoughts to actuate potent and perspicacious speech and thus function on a higher level in whichever professional field they choose. This is not to denigrate the role of educational systems that fall outside of this tradition, this is to defend against the notion that this sort of teaching/way of learning is somehow dated in a world controlled by apps and algorithms. The very success of the social media sites on which I am sharing this review are built on not just the visual appeal and ease of their interface but on the psychological needs and vacancies they fill. A very fine and widely readable précis on the subject from someone who is an embodiment of the very ideals to which this system of education aspires.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Kiki Seong

    As I was in my college counselor's office, waiting for him, I saw the bind of this book. I have recently been struggling with different visions of my education from my parents. I want to attend a Great Books college that is not very known in the popular world but remains highly respected in the intellectual, academic realm. In an effort to gather more arsenal for my defense, I decided to read this book. Overall, it reinforced what I already knew excitingly. I would say this book, though not revo As I was in my college counselor's office, waiting for him, I saw the bind of this book. I have recently been struggling with different visions of my education from my parents. I want to attend a Great Books college that is not very known in the popular world but remains highly respected in the intellectual, academic realm. In an effort to gather more arsenal for my defense, I decided to read this book. Overall, it reinforced what I already knew excitingly. I would say this book, though not revolutionary, is a pleasant read. It allowed me to cross compare many of my prospective colleges and weigh them through an experienced perspective. I have a little more confidence in my preferred school, but my parents' recommended school is mentioned profusely through this book in lieu of providing a "liberal education"—so I don't contest attending (if I get in in the first place). There was this one part of the book that I found extremely compelling. It was talking about the disenchantment youth feel towards rebellion, radical ideologies, and philosophy because of the bourgeois man becoming the American ideal. I saw this directly represented in the school I currently attend and the standard "dream schools" (or hyper-American schools that everyone covets to attend to become that standard hyper-American. I thought Zakaria perfectly explained what I have seen in the last four years of my attending my current high school. It made me chuckle a few times and then sigh despondently. If only a liberal arts education was valued!

  24. 4 out of 5

    David

    The word "liberal" in the title refers to a post-secondary liberal arts education not some sort of political or social philosophy. Zakaria presents an anodyne, compact and generic argument in favor of a liberal arts education. I'm inclined to believe most, not all, college students are better served by a liberal arts education so while I was a willing reader I didn't find this book particularly compelling. It won't drive anyone away from the liberal arts but I don't see it converting many doubter The word "liberal" in the title refers to a post-secondary liberal arts education not some sort of political or social philosophy. Zakaria presents an anodyne, compact and generic argument in favor of a liberal arts education. I'm inclined to believe most, not all, college students are better served by a liberal arts education so while I was a willing reader I didn't find this book particularly compelling. It won't drive anyone away from the liberal arts but I don't see it converting many doubters either. The central problem is the lack of passion. This book struck me as a Mr. Rogers version of William Deresiewicz's fiery book Excellent Sheep. (I was surprised to see Zakaria take a few shots at Deresiewicz in the last chapter of the book.) There's no real harm or benefit to reading this book but a more stimulating choice is Excellent Sheep because it will stir more passion and force you to think about the subject matter much more.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Emma

    Not really worth a full book. Could have been an op-ed.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Lee G

    This book was crazy good and left me super pumped to learn!

  27. 5 out of 5

    Janet Tulley

    Many valid points were raised defending a liberal arts education. I would be interested in hearing the current thoughts of the authors in our current political climate.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Lola

    As far as class reading goes, this was fine. Not super entertaining, but fine. I kind of skimmed it, to be honest.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Andie

    Like other books by Fareed, this makes so much sense and his method of imparting knowledge is eloquent and completely readable. He starts with his own story and lays that atop the history of American higher education. Learning to discern, to write, and to think is the product of an education for those who love learning, and the world will be better for it.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Susan Bivins

    Since I had a liberal arts education, it is little wonder this book resonated with me. But perhaps the best part concerns the analysis of the Youth of today. Without the pressing issues of the Cold War or South Africa, they seem less passionate. But we could all do with more soul searching, and more diverse education.

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