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In Defense of a Liberal Education

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  2,537 ratings  ·  376 reviews
The liberal arts are under attack. The governors of Florida, Texas, and North Carolina have all pledged that they will not spend taxpayer money subsidizing the liberal arts, and they seem to have an unlikely ally in President Obama. While at a General Electric plant in early 2014, Obama remarked, "I promise you, folks can make a lot more, potentially, with skilled manufact ...more
Paperback, 208 pages
Published March 28th 2016 by W. W. Norton Company (first published March 30th 2015)
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noyoucmon It was written in 2015. In the first chapter, Zakaria makes mention of "last year," which he identifies as 2014.…moreIt was written in 2015. In the first chapter, Zakaria makes mention of "last year," which he identifies as 2014.(less)

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Dec 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
This isn’t a long read or a difficult read but I found myself lingering over various parts of Zakaria’s arguments concerning the value of the liberal arts and the liberal education.

There are several elements to this book and they are not always handled separately and distinctly.

First there is Zakaria’s own educational biography, or how he came from India to study in the USA.
There is enough included to allow us to think about all the other foreign students that have found our higher education att
Apr 01, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you are going to read just a single book about liberal arts education, this is the most approachable. This is a pithy little contribution to the list of books endorsing liberal arts education. Zakaria is an interesting non-university voice in the conversation. The internationalism of his experience adds another dimension. It's not quite as intellectual a book as some of the others on liberal arts education (Nussbaum, Roth, etc.), but it's worth two and a half hours of your time. ...more
Michael Austin
Aug 01, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-in-2018
First off, I like Fareed Zakaria--especially his book The Future of Freedom, which is a nuanced, intelligent analysis of modern democracy in practice, which is very different than modern democracy in theory. He is a learned and engaging writer whose books have, in the past, come close to being actually important and even necessary for those who want to understand the world.

I also like liberal education. I am a liberal educator. I majored in English three times and didn't know if I would ever hav
Laura Leaney
A short, lucid book that articulates Zakaria's thoughts on the significance of a liberal education. This is not "liberal" as in politically left and squishy of thought, but "liberal" in the sense of the Yale report he quotes: "the essence of a liberal education is 'not to teach that which is peculiar to any one of the professions; but to lay the foundation which is common to them all.'" There is nothing in the book to disagree with. Studying subjects such as literature, history, and philosophy w ...more
Joe Robles
May 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I remember watching Jon Stewart interview Marco Rubio and Rubio was arguing for sensible education. Words to the effect of, "Do we need more Greek History majors?" The argument is that people shouldn't go to college for knowledge, but to acquire a marketable skill. The insistence is on learning a trade of some sort. I come from a poor family, but I went to college primarily to learn something. All my life I dreamed of learning for learning sake. Not taking classes where I had to fill out some st ...more
Apr 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book happened to be on my list at the right time. I was an English major and so far have not gone on to pursue a Masters because there isn't anything I'm passionate enough about where I know I would start it and complete it. After yet another job rejection, I was feeling really down and wished I had gone to a different school or had majored in something else, but Fareed Zakaria and this informative book made me realize I have plenty of skills to succeed in the world, even if the job search ...more
Daniel Clausen
Jan 04, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-of-2021
This book was my introduction to the conversation over liberal education. It was short, not-quite comprehensive, at times very provocative and personal, and left me wanting to read more on the topic. The best elements of the book were when he talked about his own experiences with liberal education.

Many of us who loved university had a few of those magical moments. It could have been that teacher who surprised you, or that class that had more depth than you were expecting, or those moments when
Steve Peifer
In which a son of privilege explains why liberal education is important while ignoring that because of the huge costs associated with higher education the middle class and poor are virtually forced to be practical to survive. If you love irony, he quotes this in his book without any sense of self awareness: The education system is an increasingly powerful mechanism for the intergenerational reproduction of privilege.
Sep 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I listened to this audio while I was hauling branches and schlepping fronds the day after Hurricane Irma. And, as expected, it was a big case of preaching to the choir. I believe that my liberal education was one of the best things that ever happened to me, and am very grateful that I was educated at a time in this country when it was still the norm. Fareed Zakaria
I think this book has some good points, but they didn't seem to be clearly presented - for me, at least. One member of our book group agreed with me; another one completely disagreed; the rest were somewhere in between.

I grew up in an education-oriented home. My mother was a teacher; my father was a member of first the local school board and later the county school board. Together they helped found a statewide association for gifted children. Education through college was expected (and achieved
Jane Dugger
I began this short book with the intention of not liking it and disagreeing with the premise. However, I found myself nodding my head at different things and thinking perhaps it isn't so bad a "Liberal Education." I guess what I really absorbed is the point of a liberal education is to teach one how to think. And of course I am a huge fan of thinking. But also a liberal education is a way to make society more cohesive - think of the "One City, One Book" programs ten or so years ago. In a society ...more
May 08, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I ardently support this book's thesis. But if one goal of a liberal education is to think for yourself, then it seems fair that I take a more critical stance. The book contains many interesting examples (I especially liked the one about art history improving observation skills among medical students), but also a ton of anecdotes and digressions that don't address the key questions that would've really made its argument compelling. Questions like: what is a liberal education? What are the issues ...more
Cindy Rollins
May 06, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: audiobooks, 2016
A Short, interesting treatise on the liberal arts. This book approached a subject that is dear to my heart from a completely different angle than what I am usually interested in but, in turn, this gave me new things to think about. I liked his hopeful attitude towards the future and his understanding of the downfalls of cultures obsessed with assessment. He had a unique perspective on America's dismal showing in educational rankings which sounded plausible.

This is not a Christian look at the lib
Kris - My Novelesque Life

Fareed Zakaria lays out the reason why a Liberal education is still important in the United States even though the President is encouraging high school grads towards trades. This was a very short book so while the points were outlined the reason is sometimes too brief. It might be just me but it seems like he takes it for granted that the reader is from the States and does not explain some things.
Jul 31, 2019 rated it liked it
The author of this book mentions a couple of arguments why liberal education is important and why we should not dismiss it from higher education. However, the link between the content of the chapters is sometimes lost. The author tells the history of liberal education and the philosophy of some historical figures with great depth, but as a reader, one can easily forget that the main objective of the author is to defend the concept of liberal education. In the final chpater, he describes the diff ...more
Lee Underwood
Dec 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Brief and impactful. This book offers a number of ways to inject powerful arguments into the otherwise batshit crazy conversations I often find myself in about why my students and their parents shun the humanities. Most of my students see them selves as high achieving STEM students, more from misconceived conditioning by our school system rather than personal identification. Zakaria constructs some powerful arguments about how even the best scientists, mathematicians, and engineers of our time e ...more
Heidi Larson
Dec 31, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020-reads, audio
I think a lot of what the author says are the reasons my parents felt strongly that I attend a liberal arts program and also the values my parents hold as evidenced by the way they raised me. Learning a breadth of information challenges the learner to develop different ways of solving problems... However, the one thing I would say that liberal arts didn't push me to do is to succeed at failing and continue to reverse that failure into a learned lesson. ...more
John Kaufmann
Hurray. When I went through school in the 1960s, a liberal education was still on the agenda. However, I thought it lost its currency over the last few decades with the push toward "job skills." I was delighted to see Fareed Zakaria resurrect the concept. I am a fan, and I hope it regains some of its traction. Not that I agree 100% with Zakaria's prescriptions, but I wholeheartedly support the basic concept and the direction in which he points.

Zakaria begins with a discussion of his educational
Stan Skrabut
Apr 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: education
When Bernadette, my wife, returned from a trip to the Netherlands, she brought me a wonderful gift... a book. She was confident I would enjoy it because it focused on education. This book was In Defense of a Liberal Education* by Fareed Zakaria. Having just finished reading it, I found it quite interesting, especially as I related it to our current times. As I write this, a professor was removed from a plane because he was doing math, and the woman who reported him did not understand what he was ...more
Brady Clemens
Zakaria brings forward a spirited defense of the liberal education in this short but wide-ranging book. Not only does he discuss the value that a liberal education provides, but he also brings in the history of U.S. education and how it contrasts with other parts of the world. Certainly much of his defense of liberal education is viewed through the lens of its usefulness for jobs and corporations, but for anyone who regularly reads or watches Fareed Zakaria, this won't come as a surprise--foreig ...more
Jun 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Zakaria provides us with facts and figures, in conjunction with his experience transitioning as an international student to the US college setting, to convince that a liberal education has several merits. One merit that stood out for me is how effective writing results in thinking, which I can relate to as a liberal arts graduate myself. An easy, quick read that one should not miss!
Blake Gilmore
Nov 14, 2017 rated it it was ok
Zakaria doesn't spend as much time truly defending a liberal education as he does talking about what it is and its history. I'd have preferred a stronger defense. ...more
Kody Carmody
May 17, 2018 rated it it was ok
Required reading. Kind of shallow, especially later on, but only because it’s both ambitiously broad and very brief.
Dan Graser
Oct 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
This brief work from Fareed Zakaria serves as a passionate defense not only of the intrinsic value of a liberal education (note, not a political term in this sense) but also functions as an example of the main point of the work, at least for me, which is the value of learning how to express yourself having synthesized the relevant information/data. Far from some otiose ivory tower means of study of devouring dated and somnolent tracts, liberal arts study is more connected to our contemporary pro ...more
Kiki Seong
Sep 23, 2018 rated it liked it
As I was in my college counselor's office, waiting for him, I saw the bind of this book. I have recently been struggling with different visions of my education from my parents. I want to attend a Great Books college that is not very known in the popular world but remains highly respected in the intellectual, academic realm. In an effort to gather more arsenal for my defense, I decided to read this book. Overall, it reinforced what I already knew excitingly. I would say this book, though not revo ...more
May 06, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The word "liberal" in the title refers to a post-secondary liberal arts education not some sort of political or social philosophy.

Zakaria presents an anodyne, compact and generic argument in favor of a liberal arts education. I'm inclined to believe most, not all, college students are better served by a liberal arts education so while I was a willing reader I didn't find this book particularly compelling. It won't drive anyone away from the liberal arts but I don't see it converting many doubter
May 28, 2018 rated it it was ok
Not really worth a full book. Could have been an op-ed.
Lee G
Dec 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book was crazy good and left me super pumped to learn!
Janet Tulley
Jan 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
Many valid points were raised defending a liberal arts education. I would be interested in hearing the current thoughts of the authors in our current political climate.
Feb 14, 2020 rated it it was ok
As far as class reading goes, this was fine. Not super entertaining, but fine. I kind of skimmed it, to be honest.
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Reading Along Wit...: Fareed Zakaria, "In Defense of a Liberal Education" 1 7 Mar 30, 2015 05:24AM  

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Fareed Zakaria was named editor of Newsweek International in October 2000, overseeing all Newsweek's editions abroad. The magazine reaches an audience of 24 million worldwide. He writes a regular column for Newsweek, which also appears in Newsweek International and fortnightly in the Washington Post. He also hosts an international affairs program, Fareed Zakaria GPS, which airs Sundays worldwide o ...more

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