American way's benefits

October 28, 2010

Times Higher Education cites Barack Obama's praise for Singapore's higher education system, which places an emphasis on science and technology rather than the liberal arts ("World crisis in humanities, not many hurt", 21 October). But in a bold move that has the potential for positive ripple effects in Southeast Asia and elsewhere, Singapore has now embarked on the creation of a major liberal-arts college in partnership with Yale University.

Martha Nussbaum's impassioned advocacy of liberal-arts education and its civic and democratic virtues is entirely appropriate: no other form of higher education educates a person as holistically and seeds as profound a capacity for critical thinking, ethical reflection, creativity, imagination and empathy - all in a way that broadens individuals' humanity and enables them to appreciate interdisciplinary relationships and the complexity of human knowledge and experience.

It is true that the values of liberal-arts education are underappreciated and in some cases struggling, but your article is right to assert that such education remains fundamental to American higher education, and thankfully is likely to remain that way.

While the liberal arts may be a uniquely American philosophy of education, it has universal relevance and value and can enrich the academy at large.

Noam Schimmel, Department of media and communication, London School of Economics.

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