From 3QuarksDaily: ‘Alternative Facts’ And The Necessity of Liberal Education

Scott Aikin and Robert Talisse at the 3quarksdaily find occasion in the recent intense disagreement over the crowd size attending the Trump inauguration to proffer the values of a liberal education. We understand this is a convenient pretext, because anything in the news would have allowed them to do just the same, and almost everything in the news is related to Trump. That is to say that both Trump and the news suffer from a lack of education, which is not news. What is valuable about this piece, though the object is trite, is in its taking a particular example of the latest Trump absurdity, and showing very astutely that the histrionics could have been avoided if only the dramatists were a little smarter.

Photograph for 3quarksdaily

Photograph for 3quarksdaily

In the coming months and years, we as a democratic citizenry will need to develop the skills necessary for avoiding and diagnosing such failures of discourse. We need to reacquaint ourselves with concepts like reason, evidence, justification, argument, and objection. We need also to cultivate skills of reading and listening closely, not with suspicion, but with a critical eye and ear. And these skills enable creative and clear thinking, too.

It’s for this reason we think that the humanities and liberal arts are good for democratic citizens. Reading, thinking, and writing about literature and ideas sound to too many like only so much indulgent bullshit, but it’s not. At least when it’s done well.

And it is certainly done well here at the Core Curriculum, and in this liberal corner generally. The average undergraduate at Boston University studying in the humanities has received the kind of rigorous training in critical thinkingthat Kellyanne Conway, a J.D. with honors from Georgetown University Law School, clearly has not. If she did, then she’d understand that one cannot implicate wholesale any one group of people–Muslim, Mexican, Women, African-Americans–unlessthose people are white,of course, which is neither racist nor hypocritical. But that realization demands some critical thinking, an ability we can all gladly boast. If you’d like to learn how to be smart

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