The Question


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Keith D. Leonard, graduate student, English, Stanford University
Date submitted: 8/31/98

"If we can clarify the university's educational mission, and make plain the relationship between education for the soul and education for professional development, then we can manage to save the humanities. One of the responses, submitted May 21, 1998, implied that only "uneducated parents" suggest to their children that education is primarily for building professional expertise and earning higher saleries, but the children of educated parents are equally inclined to see their education as instrumental, the means to a professional and financial end. And this is a perspective that the university itself often reinforces, and it is a mistake. Undergraduate education does not provide all of the practical professional development students need in every field, which is why we have professional schools. With this in mind, and frankly as an idealist, I sumbit that education for the soul can and should be part of professional development at the undergraduate level.

Self examination, broadened senses of culture, history and humanity, broad perspectives, critical thinking: these are qualities and qualifications that higher education can foster, and from which all professional people can benefit. More than some kind of cultural literacy, this vision of education involves development of the fullest range of human intellectual capacities, and the training to have them work in concert. Thus we need not necessarily reconcile art with money, which, as one respondent said, is probably impossible, nor do we need to devise some specific professional "use" for literary study or sculpture instruction. Since, for some students, personal (and therfore professional) development happens best in fictional or historical books, while, for others, in the wonders of biology, we need to provide all students with the opportunity to enrich their lives and minds on their way to entering whatever profession they will enter.

This is how education of the soul can coexist with education for professional expertise and higher salaries--educationally enriched students will make for better professionals *and* better artists. Let us maintain the university as an institution fully equipped not only to prepare students practically for the professions, but also to feed the diversity of souls in the diverse ways they need to be fed, which, to me, is an integral part of a student's professional development. Allowing our students options, and distinguishing clearly between undergraduate education and professional training, this broad-based approach should be our educational mission."

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