What is Liberal Education For?


A Conference at St. John’s College 
was held on the 50th Anniversary of the Santa Fe Campus
October 16-18, 2014




Click on the name of a featured speaker to view their panel presentation:

Eva BrannSt. John's College, "Immediacy"
Peter PesicSt. John's College, "Wonder, Difficulty, and Understanding"
Matthew CrawfordUniversity of Virginia, "Attention as a Cultural Problem"
Andrew DelbancoColumbia University, "Does Liberal Education Have a Future?" 
Christopher Ricks, Boston University, "T.S. Eliot's Humanism" 

Gan YangSun Yat-sen University, "The Emergence of Liberal Education and Classical Studies in China"

Roger Scruton, Oxford University, "Architecture and Aesthetic Education" 
Wendy Lesser, Critic and Author, "Good Books and Bad Books: Developing One's Reading Taste" 

Please click here to download the conference schedule.

Please click on a featured speaker below to view their presentation .

St. John's 50th Liberal Arts Conference In the News


Santa Fe: "Ivory Tower vs Fordist Education"
Inside Higher Ed, November 13, 2014 

Santa Fe: OPINION: "Long live Great Books Education"
Boston Globe, October 23, 2014 

Santa Fe: “Less a Murder than a Suicide”
The National Review Online, October 22, 2014

Santa Fe: "Doing Themselves In?"
Inside Higher Ed, October, 20, 2014

Santa Fe: "Looking back on 50 years, St. John’s conference explores value of a liberal education"
The New Mexican, October, 18, 2014

Santa Fe: "Survey Cites St. John’s Liberal Arts Education; UNM challenges D grade"
The Albuqerque Journal, October, 17, 2014

Santa Fe: "The Reluctant Pragmatist"
Inside Higher Ed, October, 17, 2014

Santa Fe:"St. John’s Presents the Book as Art"
The Albuquerque Journal, October, 8, 2014

Santa Fe: "Can We Talk?"
New Mexico Magazine, October, 1, 2014

Santa Fe: "St. John’s College has the Proper Climate for Vintners"
The Washington Post, August 8, 2014

Santa Fe: "St. John’s Successes Reach Far Beyond the College’s Classrooms "
The Albuquerque Journal, July 11, 2014

Santa Fe: "50 years of ‘a learning community’"
The Albuquerque Journal, June 27, 2014

Santa Fe: "St. John’s College Celebrates 50 years in Santa Fe"
The New Mexican, June 19,2014


Questions about the conference should be directed by email to Paul Cooley in the Dean's Office at paul.cooley(at)sjc.edu.

What is Liberal Education For? We Ask the Question...


We raise this question, recognizing that liberal education and the great tradition of the American liberal arts college have been put on the defensive of late. Small colleges across the nation have to make their case to students, to their parents, and to the public more urgently than ever. The causes of this crisis have been analyzed extensively: there is an emerging consensus that the rapid growth of consumerism amidst new economic challenges, and the fragmentation of general studies driven by professional training and specialization in the universities, have led us to undervalue drastically the humane goals of liberal studies. These causes are themselves symptomatic of a deeper crisis in our time, a crisis of uncertainty and disorientation affecting every field of human endeavor—scientific, social, intellectual, artistic, and spiritual. Precisely in response to this crisis, liberal education can reaffirm its relevance and purposes. 

We believe that the unprecedented opportunities for freedom in the modern world only heighten the need for life-long engagement with the essential questions. Individualism, the accelerating progress of science and technology, the liberation engendered by complex economies—the very achievements of the modern age—present philosophical and ethical difficulties, both novel and perennial. No one can address these effectively, in their own lives or as future leaders, unless they come to understand them in a more than superficial way.

At St. John’s College, it has continued to be our conviction that the root questions of life can be taken up by any serious person. We have made the Socratic approach—of open, courageous, and philosophically minded inquiry—central to the work of every class. We welcome friends (and critics) and educators from near and far to join us for this conference, which we envision as a broad platform to speak about the challenges and opportunities for liberal education today, and to engage in exemplary studies in the liberal arts (interpretive and substantive work on texts and within disciplines). In addition to an array of featured speakers, there are over seventy-five individual presenters scheduled to deliver papers and participate in panels.


Questions about the conference should be directed to the Dean's Office.