KU chancellor stands up for liberal arts education

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LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Traditional liberal arts programs that teach subjects like literature, music and history often find themselves struggling for respect, recognition and funding, a panel of higher education officials told the Kansas Board of Regents this week.

The Regents in September asked for a report about the economic and social value of liberal arts degrees, The Lawrence Journal-World (http://bit.ly/13miosl) reported, specifically requesting information about the critical thinking and communication skills those programs teach.

The board also asked for wage and employment data for undergraduates receiving such degrees.

"In an era when students, and their parents especially, are interested in qualifying the extrinsic value of degrees, the focus is often on how can your education lead you to get a specific job," University of Kansas Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little told the board Thursday. "And that is understandable why that focus would be there, but I think it leads us to think of things in the short term."

The request for the report was partly in response to messages from the Kansas Legislature and Gov. Sam Brownback urging the Regents institutions to put more focus on programs that produce tangible benefits for the Kansas economy and programs that attract significant outside research funding.

That kind of thinking tends to put humanities and arts programs at a disadvantage, Gray-Little said.

"We don't expect a composer or conductor to do a cost-benefit analysis of their musical composition, and we don't especially think it's efficient for a one-minute waltz to be played in 30 seconds," she said. "That's not the kind of efficiency we want. And yet we begin to talk about education and performances in those areas as if that's the kind of indicator we should use."


Information from: Lawrence (Kan.) Journal-World, http://www.ljworld.com

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