Everyone knows what a liberating education is.
All of you are no doubt familiar with a typical experience of mine: I am suddenly confronted with a new puzzle, a new question, or a new problem that needs solving. I am pushed out of my comfort zone, and then I discover that the user manual is written in an unintelligible mixture of Japanese and English, or the local expert has gone walkabout. I realize that I have to find the answer on my own. For some reason, I cannot let the question go. I’m compelled to find an answer just because the question truly belongs to me, and I need to satisfy the urge to find the answer for its own sake.
So, I strike out on my own. I stumble and fail a few times. I turn to a friend who helps me ask the question that starts to unlock the secret for me, and I try again, now gaining some understanding of the source of my problem. And then I proceed until I have an answer, a solution to the problem—one I claim for myself because I have come to own it. I feel the euphoria of having come to the answer somehow on my own, even if I had help and guidance along the way, because I now understand both the original question and the path to my solution—and I imagine that I understand it well enough to be able to help someone else see the issue in a similar light. I have been liberated by the discovery, freed from reliance on the expert. And I have been freed from the fear of failure, having found within myself the resources needed to move on to the next question or problem I may confront—which makes me a little less afraid of facing the next puzzle. (And there will always be a next puzzle.)
Many experiences like this are quite ordinary, things like repairing the washing machine or figuring out how to operate a new app on the smart phone. Sometimes they go deeper, like unlocking of the mystery of a painting or a poem that moves me in a way I do not understand, or avoiding a mistake in raising a child, or finding the right way to befriend someone I would like to know better. And sometimes they go to the very roots of human awareness, like wonder at the beauty and majesty of the universe and the fecundity of life in every form. Every moment of every day presents opportunities for such discoveries. We only have to be able to see them, be willing to undertake the effort to confront the next question, and have the tools at our disposal to begin the task.
The tools needed to free the human mind and soul are the liberal arts. An education in the liberal arts is a liberal education. If one wants to be fully human, these arts must be understood and practiced as a way of life. These are the arts we ought to be cultivating in our students at our nation’s colleges and universities, arts that will help us answer our everyday questions as well as those bigger questions we all have: What does it mean to be human? What am I to do with my life? How should I understand the world in which I live—my physical, political and social environment? And how shall I navigate that world?
And yet, if we are to judge by current attitudes in higher education, many politicians, businesspeople, parents, and even educators themselves no longer see the indispensability of liberal education. Instead they demand “value,” they insist on “outcomes assessments,” and they want to see education result in a direct “payoff” in narrow careerist terms.
My talk this morning addresses these two competing views of liberal education. In the first part, I want to remark on five hallmarks of liberal education, and say why I think each is absolutely crucial to an education that can free us from our limitations. And in the second part, I want to come to grips with some of the political and social demands that are threatening liberal education and endangering the very commonwealth that makes politics and society possible.
So let me begin with
Part I: What Are the Characteristics of a Liberal Arts Education?
The first hallmark of liberal education is that it brings students face-to-face with the original sources of thought.
Ever since human beings learned to draw and write, they have been scratching their thoughts, ideas, and images onto stone, leaves, wax, paper, and anything else that can hold a likeness. We are the heirs to several thousand years’ worth of this drawing and writing, and there is no doubt that some of the authors stand head and shoulders above others. A strong liberal education puts students in touch with the best original sources. Homer and Heisenberg, Plato and Planck, Euclid and Wittgenstein, Thucydides and Tolstoy—these were the writers who addressed the questions we still find most important. Stringfellow Barr, president of St. John’s College when the college adopted a whole new curriculum based entirely on primary texts, used to say that we had the best faculty in the world: Homer, Plato, Aristotle, Sophocles, Euclid, Aquinas, Bacon, Chaucer, and so on…and that today’s professors were poor substitutes for the originals. He wanted to give the originals the opportunity to have their say with our students.
Textbooks or other secondary sources that discuss the primary texts—in the third person, as it were—stand between the student and the thinkers. Sometimes they treat the student as if they are not competent to deal with the primary texts. Sometimes they present the thinking of a scholar as though it is more important than the thinking of the original author.
A solid liberal arts education, however, insists that the student confront the authors themselves. Indeed, wrestling with the authors themselves is the only way to become competent at confronting them. The very best authors have a way of enticing their readers to become interlocutors with their texts. And by reading more and more of the best authors, readers learn how to enter into conversation with the authors through their works, becoming participants in an ongoing conversation—and even more, becoming a brand new participant each time he or she rereads and reenters the conversation!
Teachers in a strong liberal arts program should be continually learning along with their students, rather than professing their store of knowledge and teaching at them. For this reason, teachers and students together should apply themselves to material that is both deep enough and interesting enough to promote better reflection and more profound learning each time the class is taught. And students will be better served if their teachers present their own real, living questions about the material instead of simply relating what they already know, or posing sham questions which pose no difficulty for the teacher. This mode of procedure allows students to see how an advanced thinker engages in the activity of inquiry, while at the same time encouraging the teacher to listen to the students so that everyone in the room can engage equally in the process of learning.
The original and timeless sources are not only the grounding of all modern thought; they also repay our efforts to understand them many times over, are often deeply beautiful, and are usually able to ignite the desire to know, which is the most necessary spur to learning. The books that do this best are often filled with striking images, intriguing parables, and half-hidden answers, because the journey to understanding is aided immensely by metaphor—a toll that engages desire because it both exposes and hides a truth simultaneously. The best authors have found such tools to be necessary because the path to understanding is difficult, and requires continual stimulation.
A solid liberal education, grounded in grappling with the greatest minds, makes a student better prepared to deal with the ideas and challenges of contemporary life and happier at the prospect of learning to do so.
The second hallmark of liberal education is that it takes place, as much as possible, within a single community of learning, that is, a program of study in which everyone engages in the very same studies. Why? Because the deepest learning occurs where friends learn together. Friendship and learning are related reciprocally. We learn from friends because we care enough about them to want to understand them better. We share what we love with friends because we want what is good for our friends. Moreover, friendship is a necessary component in developing the trust needed to dive into real learning. Real learning requires exposing one’s ignorance to others. Most people will only expose themselves in this way when they can trust those around them to support them, and to share their own humiliations in turn. Only with friends can we share what is truly at stake for us in the inquiry; only with friends can we explain why the search matters to us; only with friends can we reveal why finding the truth matters to us.
There is also a deeper connection between friendship and learning that unites them and makes them flourish together. Unlike nearly all physical goods, friendship and learning cannot be diminished by sharing. Instead, they reproduce in the sharing: the more they spread, the more of them come into being. We all grow stronger when we grow together in friendship and learning. And we are all better off to be reminded constantly that there are some things in the world that do not obey the second law of thermodynamics or the economic principle of scarcity.
To promote friendship and learning, faculty and students should be able to discuss just about everything on the curriculum together, so that the sense of community is rooted in a common activity of learning rather than other sorts of common activities. Everyone studying together needs to be able to discuss their deepest intellectual concerns with everyone else, so that the communal culture centers around learning rather than social interests and personal enthusiasms. The reverse is the rule in today’s colleges and universities, where social and personal interests are central to life on campus, just because the odds of sharing one’s deepest intellectual interests with one’s closest friends are very small.
All of this is a strong argument for well-developed core programs. A strong liberal arts program makes it as easy as possible for all the students and faculty to discuss what is most important to them, which not only develops a sense of common mission around learning, but also establishes firm friendships that are likely to last.
The third hallmark of liberal education is that it unifies school and life. In a shared program of study, so much of the student’s activity revolves around reading, studying, and discussing the books and the questions they raise about how to live the best life, that these studies cannot be separated from other aspects of life. Liberal education, therefore, is not so much preparation for life as it is practice at living—albeit practice in a safe place, where others are practicing with you and beside you.
Instead of studying courses as an activity that goes on alongside social life and work life, a strong liberal education incorporates a program of study that becomes the center of a student’s life, to which the questions and problems of social life and work life are referred, because the studies apply to all aspects of life. This is why liberal studies cannot become too specialized. They must encompass as many different aspects of life as possible, so that students can learn about their internal selves, their external selves, and the social, political and natural worlds outside of them.
The fourth hallmark of liberal education is that it unifies thought. Just as the parts of a unified life are not separate compartments but complementary constituents of a whole, so too the parts of unified thinking are not separate departments, but different aspects of one intellectual activity.
As just one example, take the analogy used by Tolstoy in the second epilogue of War and Peace, in which he posits that large-scale historical forces are identical with the desires, responses, and actions of all individuals taken together, summed up as in integral calculus, while the choices of individuals are identical with large-scale historical forces, differentiated as in differential calculus. Based on this comparison, he conceives of free will and determinism as poles of one continuum: the more you differentiate large-scale historical forces to isolate individual behavior, the more free will appears as an agency in human affairs; the more you integrate individual actions to discern large-scale historical forces, the more determinism appears as an agency in human affairs.
Whatever one thinks about the accuracy of Tolstoy’s analogy, it opens up questions, as all good metaphors do. Is it possible that free will and determinism are not antagonistic ideas, as is usually imagined? Could we begin to understand them as cooperating, mutatis mutandis, as individual points along the whole curve on which they are located?
I chose this example, which crosses the lines between literature, history, and mathematics, in order to make a particular point about the unity of intellectual activity: nothing makes it more difficult to tap into the unity of thought, to participate in the creative and thought-provoking activity of wide-ranging metaphor, than the modern educational commonplace that there is an almost unbridgeable chasm between the sciences and the humanities. A strong liberal arts education must be rooted in a denial of this assumption.
The education we need is for the sake of liberating individuals from complete reliance on “experts,” so that they can make any question their own. Scientific and humanistic thought both belong to the repertory of human intelligence, and are not separate domains of thinking. A liberally educated human being must be able to grasp the elements of all forms of thinking. Perhaps the most familiar historical example of a thinker who was not limited by artificial boundaries is Leonardo da Vinci, one of the world’s most prominent artists, anatomists, and inventors, and generally considered one of the most extraordinary geniuses of all time. Or take Socrates: you wish to know what virtue is? Start by drawing a square each side of which measures two feet, in other words a four-foot square. Describe the length of the side which produces double the four foot square. (Meno) Or you wish to understand the nature of Justice Itself—to differentiate it from its many instances in the political world? Take a line that is divided into two unequal parts, and divide each of them in the same proportion. (Republic) In each case, a mathematical example is imagined to be helpful in understanding a concept generally thought to belong to another realm.
Strong liberal arts programs will study both sciences and humanities, probably in about equal measure, so that teachers and students are continually making the connections between these two “fields” of thinking that have been artificially separated by the history of education.
The fifth hallmark of liberal education is that it thrives on, and constantly generates, dialectic—that is, serious discussion—not just some of the time in special sections separated off from lectures, but all the time.
Continual collaborative discussion develops the character of an independent thinker, who can confidently listen to others, state opinions, reconcile differences, clarify opposing positions, and change views when necessary. Discussion is not debate. The participants in discussion do not speak in order to score points or to win arguments, but to discover a truth in which all can share. This brings us back to the role of friendship in liberal education: all serious discussion is an attempt to share understanding among all participants, and this can only happen among friends who are committed to helping one another through their difficulties toward greater mutual understanding.
On top of that, throughout one’s life, it is in just such serious discussions that the most important work gets done, by tackling life’s difficulties cooperatively with others rather than insisting on one’s view at all costs.
Now that I have outlined the principal characteristics of liberal education, let me turn to
Part II: The Political and Social Demands That Threaten Liberal Education
One of the most insistent demands being placed on higher education today is the nearly universal demand for reduction in the cost of education. To most people, this means a reduction in the price being paid by students and their families. Well, we would all like to pay less for many things than we actually must, but the argument fails to recognize that the inflation-adjusted price of attending college has, on average at most of our independent colleges, actually remained stable or dropped over the last decade due to the availability of generous financial aid programs at nearly all of our schools. (I do not have good numbers on this for the public colleges and universities, many of which have seen steep cuts in State support and consequent increases in tuition in many states.) This has happened in the face of a reduction in the size of the endowments at many schools over the last six years, a challenge to the fundraising capacities of many schools, and a sharp increase in financial aid needed to support student enrollment following the economic downturn in the fall of 2008. Many of our nation’s colleges have cut or frozen staffing and compensation over the past several years in an effort to reduce costs while sparing what they can of the heart of their educational activities.
Colleges have responded to both the needs and demands of the families whose students seek a higher education at a lower cost to the family. And let’s not forget that no one actually pays for the full cost of their education, even if they are paying the full list price. This is because of the support from the federal and state governments, draws from college endowments accumulated over generations, and gifts from friends and alumni, corporations and foundations, to support both operations and physical facilities for the sake of the students.
This then leads to demands for greater transparency of price and cost. And it seems fairly uncontroversial that the prices and costs of higher education should be as clear as possible. What this means to many, however, seems to be based on oversimplified models of business practices: colleges are selling a commodity that, like all commodities, should have a clearly marked price so that consumers can comparison shop.
The first thing wrong with this model is the notion that education is a commodity. In fact, it has very little in common with commodities, which can be transferred from seller to buyer upon mutual agreement. Education requires responsible struggle and assistance on the parts of both teacher and student, who must work together in a cooperative relationship over a period of time. The “costs” and “benefits’ of this struggle cannot be neatly captured by a measure of dollars and cents.
The second thing wrong with this model is that virtually no modern business has assumed a public trust to provide its product or service at a price affordable to all, irrespective of one’s financial capacity to pay for it. Not so with most public and non-profit independent colleges, who are committed to making a college education accessible to all. It is no wonder that pricing strategies are hard to determine when a family’s ability to pay becomes a consideration in determining price. This requires the collection of information on family wealth and family income. For both equity and privacy reasons, therefore, higher education costs cannot be reduced to simple formulas, nor stated in simple terms.
Contrary to popular opinion, paying tuition has never been comparable to purchasing a four-door sedan. The price of the sedan is not set on a sliding scale so that everyone is given an opportunity by every car dealer to own one without assuming additional debt. But our colleges do try to make education affordable for all, because we understand it to be a necessary and common good for building a life worth living and for living freely in society. Higher education performs a great public service in adapting its pricing structure to the financial capacity of the student.
Nonetheless, many colleges now have designed net-price calculators for families to use to estimate the cost of attending our schools. Hundreds of us share price, cost and benefit information with the public in a two-page information sheet under the U-CAN project of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities. Of course we believe that it is reasonable to provide as much financial information as possible to help families with the college selection process. But the information will never fit the unrealistic model of a simple commodity exchange. And pressure to respond to demands based on this unrealistic model will twist and distort the behavior of colleges and universities in ways that diminish their ability to provide a liberal education.
Another demand that threatens higher education is the demand for higher retention and completion rates. Politicians are insisting on this. The national average graduation rate is currently around 40%. In part, I suspect, this demand also derives from a simplistic notion of commodity exchange: a commodity that had a 60% failure rate would not continue to be sold under normal circumstances. But education is not analogous to commodity exchange. Neither the teacher nor the school is a vendor, and the student is not a consumer. Much difficult and responsible work is required of the student, and there may be many who do not complete their studies because they have other responsibilities that have laid claim to their attention, or because they have acquired what they want of their education and desire to pursue something else, or because they have left their first college only to complete their degree requirements at another college, something that is not measured in the initial calculus of the average institutional retention. And then there are those who are either incapable of doing the work or not responsible enough to bring it to conclusion. Furthermore, the average retention rate for individual schools does not take into account the students who start their education at one college but get their degree at another.
That said, however, there are ways to improve significantly the rates of retention and completion that have nothing to do with the simplistic commodity-exchange model. At St. John’s, for example, over an eight-year period during the 1990s, we increased our graduation rate by 50% by doing the following sorts of things: repairing physical facilities promptly and maintaining them diligently (which had the effect of discouraging the petty incidents of vandalism that occur in an environment where people no longer care about the appearance of a place); disciplining students for disruptive behavior (which had the effect of showing the others that we cared about the quality of community life for the sake of everyone); integrating dorms that had been occupied only by freshmen with better behaving upperclassmen; increasing the number of senior residents and resident assistants in our dorms; increasing the medical, nursing and counseling staff for students with non-academic issues in their lives, including a more robust drug and alcohol counseling program; increasing the number of students who were paid to help other students with study habits and tutoring in difficult subject areas; boosting our professionalism in offering career services and paid summer internship opportunities; tightening up and enforcing a classroom attendance policy; improving and clarifying all of our admissions publications so that students would more clearly understand what they should expect if they should choose to enroll; and establishing an emergency relief fund for students with family emergencies that put stress on their academic performance and on their pocketbooks.
None of this was rocket science. Although it was not our object in making these improvements to increase retention, improved rates of retention were a beneficial by-product of our efforts. Some of these responses were costly, others cost nothing. We did not spend scarce resources measuring the effects of each program, but instead continued to invest in programs and improvements that were suggested by our students and faculty as helpful and good in themselves. Higher retention rates seem to have been an inevitable result.
At times we needed start-up grants to implement some of these measures. Fortunately, we had several of those available to us from private sources. But many small schools across the country are front-line providers of educational opportunities to first generation college students and those who are most impoverished, and are not so lucky to have private sources of funding or the resources to employ professional grant-writers.
Since each campus community has a better sense of itself and its needs than someone from outside, the only way I think we can improve student retention substantially is to support a huge range of local efforts, based on each school’s identification of its own needs, improvements, and solutions. We all know that we are not perfect and have lots of things we might do better if we only had the time, a few more resources, and the will of the community to do so.
Instead of trying to increase retention and completion rates by forcing institutions to meet abstract goals measured by universal testing benchmarks, the government could probably get more satisfactory results by making block grants available to be administered either by one of the national college presidential associations, or by the various state associations of colleges and universities.
Yet another demand that threatens liberal education is the demand for a national college ratings program. The current government plan for improving higher education depends greatly on developing a ratings system to determine which colleges offer “best value,” and on having Congress pass legislation tying federal student aid to the “best value” ratings. “Value” here will certainly have price and cost as factors in determining the ratings. This sort of ratings system will almost certainly produce at least four unintended and detrimental consequences for liberal education.
As I have said before, to the extent that the value of an education is measured in monetary terms—by such factors as cost, price, future earnings, and loan indebtedness—it fundamentally mischaracterizes the nature of higher education. The highest learning—the kind that helps you to become the owner of your life—is not a commodity any more than your life is a commodity. To measure the value of an education solely in terms of its price of entry or its economic return is to encourage yet more of the commodification of education that has already cheapened it. I know that many of us in higher education have contributed to this state of affairs but I will continue to seek a more complete way to talk about the value of an education, and I would hope the Department of Education would too. Though we must find a way to pay for college, we must not allow the economic metaphor to determine the standard of educational value.
To the extent that value is not measured in monetary terms, it will be extremely difficult to find a common standard for determining the value of an education, since students weigh many different factors in choosing a college suited to their individual needs. I am the father of five children, each of whom attended a different college or university. Why? Because the college or university that was best suited to one child was not best suited to the others. Just as each and every college or university is different and has its own distinctive characteristics of academic and community life, so each student has his or her own life to discover and pursue, a life that is unique and cannot be easily classified or categorized. Ratings of any kind suggest that all students are, or ought to be, looking for the same kind of thing from a college education; it also assumes that colleges are more alike than they actually are. Better instead to find ways of getting as much information as possible about each school to each student and let them make their own ratings—ones that will suit their own individual needs!
The plan now being developed by the Department of Education proposes to group colleges according to similarity of mission. Similarity of mission seldom has anything to do with a student’s choice of college. Indeed, I doubt that any but a tiny handful of students look at similarity of mission. Consider the many reasons one might choose a school: its perceived strength in a given area of study; the quality of and access to its faculty; its proximity to home; its popularity with friends and family; its size; its proximity to, or distance from, a big city; its sports program, theater program, religious life, political life, or residential life in general; the climate of its geographical region; the physical or cultural setting of its campus; its respect for diversity of race, sex, national origin, age, and so on—not to mention the availability of scholarships and cost of attendance. The list is as long as the imagination is inventive.
Furthermore, the plan proposes to link federal student aid to the ratings. Students attending lower-rated schools would receive less financial aid from the federal government than those attending higher-rated schools. Under these circumstances, students will often feel compelled to choose one school over another for reasons that have nothing to do with their own individual needs, desires, or dreams. The ratings will indicate what kind of education the government is willing to support, irrespective of the particular needs and desires of the student. Department officials say they want to influence behavior—presumably both the behavior of those making the choice and those providing the educational options. Indeed, money is a powerful incentive. But is this the kind of behavioral “influence” we value as a society? Do we not value the freedom of our citizens to make choices for themselves—informed choices, to be sure—about the lives they want to shape for themselves?
Only freely educated citizens freely pursuing their own paths to a life worth living can shape a society that will protect the lives and promote the happiness of us all. This last expression ought to be the basis of all public policy in this area. I think it explains the success of the Pell Grant Program, which resulted in a leveraging of federal dollars to give students from all walks of life a real opportunity to exercise their choices freely within the broad range of accredited schools.
The good news I heard yesterday, supporting the notion that some of our public servants are seeking a common ground, is that a bipartisan resolution has been introduced in Congress to call on the President to withdraw his proposal to rate colleges.
One final demand that threatens liberal education is the demand for universal standards. While no rational person can argue that there should not be minimal acceptable standards in higher education, all suggestions so far introduced for trying to devise and implement such standards have unacceptable consequences for the animating spirit of liberal education.
The current accreditation system, on the other hand, does not have these drawbacks. If we accept that only freely educated citizens freely pursuing their own paths to a life worth living can shape a society that will protect the lives and promote the happiness of its citizens, then we ought to prize the individual in our society and value the ways an individual may become self-sufficient. Education in the arts of freedom and self-sufficiency make the promise of America possible.
As there are many ways one might achieve such freedom and self-sufficiency, and as we are a nation of experimenters, always seeking better ways to achieve our ends, we ought to encourage and promote independence in our institutions of learning to find a variety of ways to help a hugely diverse citizenry to find its way to such independence and success. I can conceive of no better way to strengthen and encourage our many schools of higher learning to provide such an education than to support a system of accreditation that depends on a careful institutional self-study and thoughtful peer review of a school’s educational program in the context of its own statement of purposes, or its “mission.”
Consider the self-study. In every case I know, this means that colleges start their accreditation process with a statement of high aspirations, not of minimal, baseline measures of quality, or some lowest common denominator. This is important, because the accrediting bodies ask us to assess how we are doing against our aspirations before they ask whether we meet minimum standards. This gives colleges permission to be self-critical and freedom to explore ways of improving themselves. If we want our colleges to soar, we ought to give them the means and opportunity to fulfill their dreams. My biggest problem with so many of the recommendations we’ve heard in recent years for improving the assessment of the education that is going on in our colleges is that they ask far too little of us, and much, much less than our existing peer-review process does now. The former would frequently reduce assessment to a process of counting; our peer-review process allows for the exercise of judgment and responsibility, a far more complex and healthy way of determining whether we are doing what we say we intend to do in our statements of purpose. I would exercise great care in promoting so great a “reform” of accreditation that we lose what makes it truly great and cause us to lose sight of the need for critical self-assessment in an effort to meet some standard or other set by a governmental body.
Colleges and universities must be free to determine the four cornerstones of their educational project—the admissions standards for students, the teaching standards for faculty, the content of the curriculum, and the way in which the curriculum should be taught. Our current accreditation system does a pretty good job of protecting these while also requiring peer scrutiny to help us improve our ways and raise our expectations. It also helps us thoughtfully reconsider every so-many-years how we serve the public good and how we can ensure that we deserve the public trust we enjoy.
I would like to close by pointing out that we proponents of liberal education are, and have been for a long time, implicated in bringing about the very threats that face us.
We do not understand our situation well if we cast it in terms of enlightened champions of liberal education facing uncomprehending hordes of venal politicians and careerist parents. The problem is cultural, and we advocates of liberal education are in part responsible for the uncomprehending hordes.
Why are almost all of our politicians lawyers, businessmen, or professional office-seekers? Because of specialization. And what societal institution is most responsible for extreme specialization? Higher education. To the extent that those of us involved in higher education have acquiesced to the historical trend toward ever increasing specialization and ever diminishing liberal learning, we are complicit in raising up people who are incapable of seeing beyond the blinders imposed by their specialties. Is it any wonder that such people do not understand liberal education or its importance to the individual and to the nation?
The situation for liberal education will get better when politicians are educators, when justices are politicians, when businessmen are philosophers, and when whole citizens from all walks of life take an active part in all the institutions that nourish our democracy.
No one can bring this about but us. We must make education do what it ought to do, not what illiberally educated people think it should do. If we do not tackle this problem head-on, if we do not strengthen liberal education in our institutions of higher learning, we will continue to graduate more and more young people who are not free enough to lead and participate in the free government the Framers bequeathed to us. If we fail in this responsibility, the future of the Republic will be in grave danger.
So, now, let’s get to work.
These remarks were given at the Hauenstein Center at Grand Valley State University in June 2014 (The Common Ground Initiative Summit 2014: Have the Liberal Arts Become Too Politicized?). Below is a video version of this talk (beginning at the 17:40 mark):
Books on the topic of this essay may be found at The Imaginative Conservative Bookstore.