The true aim of the humanities is to prepare citizens for exercising their freedom responsibly.
In 1867, when he discharged his main responsibility as honorary rector of St. Andrews University by delivering an address on liberal education to the students, the philosopher and civil servant John Stuart Mill felt compelled to defend the place of the sciences alongside the humanities. Today it is the connection of the humanities to a free mind and citizenship in a free society that requires defense.
For years, an array of influential voices has been calling for our nation’s schools and universities to improve science and math education. Given the globalized and high-tech world, the prize, pundits everywhere argue, goes to the nations that summon the foresight and discipline to educate scientists and engineers capable of developing tomorrow’s ideas.
No doubt science and math are vital. But all of the attention being paid to these disciplines obscures a more serious problem: the urgent need to reform liberal education.