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In Defense of a Liberal Education: Home

Resources to enrich and support the FYS summer reading experience

About the book

Access a preview of the book on or Google Books.

"In this urgently needed book, Fareed Zakaria argues that this turn away from the liberal arts is a mistake. A liberal education teaches you how to write, how to speak your mind, and how to learn—immensely valuable tools no matter your profession. Technology and globalization are actually making these skills even more valuable as routine mechanical and even computing tasks can be done by machines or workers in low-wage countries. More than just a path to a career, a liberal education is an exercise in freedom. Above all, it is an expression of the most basic urge of the human spirit—to know."

--From the author's website

Related radio program

Radio program:
"Who Needs an English Major"

"The most popular college major in America these days is business. Some students think it doesn't pay to study philosophy or history. But advocates of liberal arts programs say their graduates are still among the most likely to become leaders, and that a healthy democracy depends on citizens with a broad and deep education."

Includes these segments: 

  • New Pressures on Liberal Education
  • An Old School Made New
  • Ticket to a Better Life
  • Making the Liberal Arts Relevant
  • Profiting from Plato

The author, on the value of the liberal arts

Zakaria on Bloomberg: The Value of a Liberal Education (2015) (6:06). 

What do "liberal" and "liberal education" mean?

liberal     \ˈli-b(ə-)rəl\   adjective

Of an area of study...

  • In early use: fitting for a free man or a gentleman.
  • In later use: directed towards a general broadening of the mind; directed towards the cultivation of the mind for its own sake...not restricted to technical or professional education.

Definition adapted from the Oxford English Dictionary and The Chambers Dictionary

What Is a 21st Century Liberal Education?

"An approach to learning that empowers individuals and prepares them to deal with complexity, diversity, and change. It provides students with broad knowledge of the wider world (e.g. science, culture, and society) as well as in-depth study in a specific area of interest. A liberal education helps students develop a sense of social responsibility, as well as strong and transferable intellectual and practical skills such as communication, analytical and problem-solving skills, and a demonstrated ability to apply knowledge and skills in real-world settings."

--Association of American Colleges & Universities

About the author

(photo used with permission of Royce Carleton, Inc.)

Fareed Zakaria's website includes a biography

CQ Researcher reports

Reports on

Liberal Arts: Should colleges get back to basics?

Humanities Education: Are humanities degrees worth the cost?

Subscription resource. Log-in required for off-campus access.


Author's notes
on page 171

To learn more about the sources Zakaria consulted to write this book (and some additional content), see his notes at the end of the book, starting on page 171. 


Guide author:  Charlotte Gerstein, Reference & Instruction Librarian, Castleton University