The empowering rise of the do-it-yourself Maker Movement has found fertile ground in higher education, cultivating a vibrant community who believe in the effectiveness of learning through doing, sharing and mentoring, playing, exploring, and risk-taking.
After more than a decade as faculty and a few years now as associate provost at the category of institution perhaps most under attack in conversations about higher education in America—small, private, selective, liberal arts—my thinking tends to be focused on defending a model of higher education derided in the popular press as “elite,” “impractical,” “ineffective,” or worse. The most prominent such argument of late, of course, was Newsweek’s mid-September 2012 series on “The College Bubble,” headlined by Megan McArdle’s “Is College a Lousy Investment?” (hint: yes . . . for some).
In the democracy of ancient Athens and the republic of ancient Rome, freedom was only for the few. Slaves, servants, and women had to toil so that free men could cultivate their minds, participate in the government, and enjoy the highest goods of human life—in short, so they could learn and practice the liberal arts.
One effective way humanities departments can engage with growing discussions on the “crisis of the humanities” is by transparently communicating what they do. Professors in the humanities at Drury University are doing that by explaining the importance of their disparate projects through video clips called “HumCasts.”
Cartoon characters Libby and Art are now defending the humanities on Twitter @SmartColleges against complaints that humanities degrees do not offer stable employment. “Libby” is an auburn-haired student who juggles several books and a backpack slung to one shoulder and Art is a college counselor who wears framed glasses and a tweed jacket with elbow patches.
The New York Six Liberal Arts Consortium has developed a new initiative in the arts and humanities called the New York Six Think Tank: Advocating for the Arts and Humanities.
There are not many places that build a community among strangers. Libros Schmibros’s bicycle libraries, however, aim to do that with handfuls of books on wheels.