Stanley Fish speaks of the importance of liberal arts education

Stanley Fish spoke Thursday night about the importance of a liberal arts curriculum at the collegiate level.

Fish, a literary and legal theorist and dean emeritus at the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Illinois-Chicago, visited campus at the invite of the Teaching and Learning Collective to contribute to their ongoing discussion about the effectiveness of student academic achievement and the skills needed to improve student learning.

"Dr. Fish's talk tonight is very relevant," said Gary Shapiro, executive vice president and provost. "He will bring important insights about how we can develop these important skills."

The presentation, entitled "The Value and Pleasure of Analysis," began by Fish saying the study of liberal arts is necessary because society needs well-rounded individuals, but many feel a liberal arts education cannot be justified because the topic of study is no longer relevant.

Fish said it is now up to students to find meaning in their college classes and interpret them in realistic ways, because universities are faculty centered and faculty are choosing to downplay liberal arts elements of all courses.

"The value in a university degree depends on the aspirations of student," Fish said. "So, if students learn to devalue their classes, what would be lost in the demise of liberal education?"

Fish used the poems "The Forerunners" and "The Hold-fast" by George Herbert, analyzing them line-by-line, to illustrate the point that without the liberal arts element of every curriculum; skills for learning like critical thinking and analysis would be lost. Students would lose skills of logic that would prepare them for later life.

"Excellence in science is linked to humanities," Fish said. "If one studies the liberal arts, it keeps alive human artifacts that might be lost or rendered unavailable for our children. That loss cannot be described."

Sarah Wrobel, a sophomore from Rochester Hills, agrees that a liberal arts education is important to students.

"We read the book in my English class," she said. "I thought the talk was interesting. He used the same analyzing and critical thinking techniques that we're learning in the class, and I think they're important skills to have."

Fish will speak at 10:30 a.m. Friday at "A Conversation with Faculty: Academics and Academic Freedom" in the Park Library Auditorium. The event is not open to the public.


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