COVID-19 has been apocalyptic for higher education, and indeed for our nation as a whole. It has intensified pressures already threatening liberal arts education: concerns over the cost of college, particularly for majors without clear career outcomes; the popularity of professional degrees with large numbers of required credits; the push for badges or micro-credentials as alternatives to a four-year degree; declining birth rates; the growth of online programs and other hybrid forms of “content delivery.” Concerns over the practicality of the liberal arts intensify ongoing questions about the very idea of moral formation central to this tradition. And within our nation, the pandemic has exacerbated preexisting inequalities and racial injustice. Pandemic conditions have fueled a surprisingly robust protest movement that is powerfully, and inspiringly, raising questions too often ignored by Christian educators. These are particularly pressing issues for Christian colleges and universities, which situate career preparation, moral formation, and critical inquiry within a broader vision for spiritual vocation.
This project gathers faculty from a variety of institutions to lead conversations regarding the enduring relevance of the liberal arts. We welcome you to watch or listen to these conversations and participate in these vital discussions. The 2020-2021 academic year will likely prove an inflection point for higher education as the coronavirus pandemic and #BlackLivesMatters protests accentuate financial difficulties and surface mission ambiguities. Might it be a tipping point in a positive direction, as institutions seek to better equip students for the complexities facing them? Our conversations will enable colleges and universities across the country to learn from one another in addressing these challenges and opportunities, and they will encourage these institutions to draw on the rich heritage of the liberal arts tradition, while acknowledging its historical limitations, in shaping their responses. Our goal is to think and talk in public about the enduring value of the liberal arts for the particular concerns and challenges of our time.
We would like to acknowledge funding from the Networking Grants for Christian Scholars, a project run by the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities.