Centre Founders Day speaker extols value of the liberal arts in developing citizen leaders
“American politics has always been a full-contact sport,” said Philip A. Glotzbach, president of Skidmore College, in his 2015 Founders Day address at Centre College. But is it nonetheless possible in a democracy with widely diverse population to “deliberate rationally” and “act effectively” to solve the increasingly complex issues we face?
In a talk titled “Liberal Education and Democracy: Developing Citizen Intellectuals,” Glotzbach bewailed the current state of the nation’s political discourse that occurs “in an ideology-rich but data-free space in which communication sometimes seems to cease altogether,” then he offered a plan to develop the “citizen intellectuals” that he
says are essential to developing “collective social decision-making” in our nation.
Important as community service and other forms of direct civic engagement may be, he says, they cannot substitute for involvement in the political sphere, “where our most pressing societal problems need to be addressed.”
Glotzbach urged that liberal arts colleges be more “intentional, and more creative, in preparing . . . graduates to function as informed, responsible members of a democratic society,” pointing out that in spite of their relatively small numbers, liberal arts colleges disproportionately achieve leadership positions in business, leading professions and government.
He concluded his remarks by referencing both Centre’s Founders Day and the national celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. this week and then recognizing that “liberal arts colleges find their ultimate justification when they both inspire and empower their graduates to help make a better world”
As part of the Founders Day ceremony, Centre awarded Glotzbach the honorary degree Doctor of Humane Letters. He was presented for the degree by his good friend and high school classmate Daniel G. Stroup, Pierce and Amelia Harrington Lively Professor of Politics and Law at Centre.
Glotzbach has been president of Skidmore, a leading liberal arts college in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., since 2003. During his tenure as president, Skidmore has been guided by the concept of “creative thought matters.” He has written widely on the value of the liberal arts, academic leadership and governance, and the value of science literacy in the liberal arts, among other topics.
He previously spent 11 years as an administrator at the University of Redlands in Southern California and before that taught philosophy at Denison University in Ohio for 15 years.
He earned a B.A. in philosophy at the University of Notre Dame in 1972, graduating Phi Beta Kappa and summa cum laude. He also holds M.A., M.Phil. and Ph.D. degrees in philosophy from Yale University.
Centre received its charter from the Kentucky legislature 196 years ago on Jan. 21, 1819.
by Diane Johnson