Westmont Magazine Still Dreaming: Race, Ethnicity, and Liberal Arts Education
In what ways has liberal education, past and present, fostered racial privilege? How can liberal education cultivate racial justice? The 19th annual Gaede Institute Conversation on the Liberal Arts will gather scholars, administrators, students and practitioners to consider these questions and more Feb. 27-29, 2020.
Advocates of liberal arts education have long under- stood themselves as essential contributors to a society that is more prosperous, more integrated and more just. But their vision of a better society has often been narrow and self-interested; it has privileged certain voices and priorities and systematically excluded others. This contradiction has been especially evident with respect to race and ethnicity. With a few notable exceptions—for example, historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) or colleges that made antislavery or civil rights fundamental to their identities—modern liberal arts institutions have historically replicated, defended or even promoted racially based patterns of inclusion and exclusion. Nonwhite students continue to be underrepresented at these institutions, and nonwhite faculty and staff often struggle to own and shape the identities of their colleges and universities.
Recent developments in American society have laid bare these longstanding patterns of exclusion, and liberal arts institutions are grappling in new ways with the legacies of racial inequity on their own campuses. There are questions of access: Who should enjoy the benefits of a broad and integrated education, and how do they get in the door? There are questions of power: Who shapes the ethos of campus life, determines the academic curricula, or sets the standards for professional advancement? There are deep structural questions: If liberal arts institutions have been products of and contributors to the racial status quo, is there hope they can articulate and pursue a genuinely inclusive vision of higher education?
Chris Hoeckley, director of the Gaede Institute, and Asso- ciate Directors Christen Foell and Aaron Sizer are organizing the three-day event. Find more information and register at www.westmont.edu/institute/conversations.
–Gaede Institute Staff