I’ve been thinking about Doug Belkin’s WSJ article entitled, “How a Liberal Arts College Survives”. I found the final question/answer response of Belkin’s interview with Brian Casey, the President of DePauw University, to be encouraging. Casey appears to be advocating the need to periodically unplug from a constant electronic “fast-food” style consumption of information in order to spend time actually reading a meaningful book that can change how one thinks about the world.
Please see below for the full quote:
“WSJ: If you could wave a magic wand and make one problem at your school disappear what would that be?
CASEY:I would like to wave a wand and for just some portion of every week have some students removed from the Internet and from telephones, smartphones and social media, and buy themselves time to read. Students these days aren’t natural readers of longer books, and I can recall from my own college days those moments when you fell in love with a book and sat for a sustained period with an important work and lived with that author for a period. They are bombarded with short bits of information constantly, and I would love to free them from that for just a short period of every week. I think they would discover more about themselves, they would learn how to engage with complexity in ways they avoid in certain ways now. They would experience the act of being quiet and alone with their thoughts.“
I would also urge readers to check out Casey’s argument on how today’s workforce can benefit from liberal arts graduates. Casey cites employers who want creative staff, employees who can deal with complexity, staff who can think independently, and who can work with others. I also think that liberal arts institutions have an important role in society as they empower people that want to “humanize” the world through art, music, film, foreign language, design, and service to the community.