The Value of Liberal Education: Fareed Zakaria in Conversation with Leon Botstein

In his recent book In Defense of a Liberal Education, Fareed Zakaria of CNN considers a question with a long and complex history: what is the value of a liberal arts education today? Leon Botstein, as president of Bard College for the last forty years, has intimately considered the question and put his answers into practice. Zakaria and Botstein, two astute commentators on education and its role in society, engage in a discussion moderated by Sam Tanenhaus, former editor of the New York Times Book Review.

Presented on December 4, 2015, by GC Public Programs and the Center for the Humanities.


7 thoughts on “The Value of Liberal Education: Fareed Zakaria in Conversation with Leon Botstein

  1. I think Fareed is correcting in stating that colleges should be places for intellectual airing of differences, however I think Fareed is mistaking intellect as the criterion for understanding racism, when in fact empathy is what is required for someone to be perceptive and sensitive to the harm they inflict on a minority person with cultural insensitivities and thus be inclined to amend their behaviour in reaction to new understanding of the effects of their behaviour.

    Fareed is also missing the point that asking students not to wear racially insensitive clothing does not equate not allowing them to participate in a discussion on racial differences. Wearing racially offensive clothing is akin to calling someone a racial epithet, which colleges should not tolerate.. However, they should promote discussion on racial epithets.

    As for creating a safe space in universities- the issue is that minority university students are NOT equipped to deal with micro-aggressions of racism, precisely because they find themselves somewhat isolated in universities by virtue of being a minority. Therefore they do not have the balance of having a group of people in their position that would give them the comfort of not feeling threatened. Its easier to say that wearing racially insensitive clothing will be moderated by the reaction of intellectuals' reception of that kind of display when you are in an environment that is racially balanced, unfortunately that is not the case in many universities. I would also like to add that Fareed's experience as a minority muslim in University however many years ago, would be quite different (less direct, harsh, violent) than the racism that muslim students would experience today. That goes back to the comment of a hierarchy of racism that Leon was speaking about. When Fareed was in university, muslims were not perceived by racists as a threat, now they are. I think muslim students today in an environment where Trump is calling for a ban on muslim immigrants would feel very wary as immigrant scholars at an elite university.

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