A new book edited by Grove City College Associate Professor of English Dr. Jeffrey L. Bilbro makes the case for the liberal arts as a crucial component of any education and essential to human flourishing.
“The Liberating Arts: Why We Need Liberal Arts Education,” edited by Bilbro, David Henreckson, and Jessica Hooten Wilson, offers up a collection of essays by a host of scholars addressing a central question in higher education today: Why should anyone study the liberal arts?
Long the core of classical higher education, “the liberal arts have fallen out of favor and are struggling to prove their relevance,” the editors write. Colleges and universities, students, and parents are prioritizing degree programs that provide more obvious career outcomes and society is raising questions about the value of studying “old books.” Are they a waste of time? Racist? Elitist? Liberal? A bad career investment?
In the face of those challenges, Bilbro, his fellow editors, and the contributors to “The Liberating Arts” attempt to reimagine and rearticulate what a liberal arts education is for, and what it might look like in today’s world.
“We genuinely hope that readers of this book walk away with the conviction that liberal arts education remains possible today despite the many threats arrayed against it,” Bilbro said at a launch party for the book last month. “When we look at the systemic social and economic and political and material challenges to liberal arts education, its prospects can seem grim. But working on this book project gave me opportunities to discover and learn from people doing vital work among the shadows, and it is their faithful, liberating work that sustains hope,” he said.
“The Liberating Arts: Why We Need Liberal Arts Education” has generated some attention and high profile reviews. “This collection suggests that the liberal arts provide an education that meets the highest aspirations of the human person, an education aimed at human flourishing. It is difficult to put a price on that,” Wall Street Journal reviewer Jennifer A. Frey wrote.
“The volume is a welcome addition to the long tradition of advocacy for the liberal arts. It brings together argument and delight, uniting the format of apologetics with the spirit of celebration,” Shirley Mullen wrote for Current.
In addition to Bilbro and his fellow editors, contributors include Emily Auerbach, Nathan Beacom, Joseph Clair, Margarita Mooney Clayton, Lydia Dugdale, Brad East, Don Eben, Becky L. Eggimann, Rachel Griffis, Zena Hitz, David Hsu, L. Gregory Jones, Brandon McCoy, Peter Mommsen, Angel Adams Parham, Steve Prince, John Mark Reynolds, Erin Shaw, Anne Snyder, Sean Sword, Noah Toly, and Johnathan Tran.
Bilbro is the author of several books, including “Reading the Times: A Literary and Theological Inquiry into the News,” which was a 2022 Christianity Today book award winner, and an editor at Front Porch Republic, which shares ideas about place, localism, community, decentralism, and conservation.
“The Liberating Arts: Why We Need Liberal Arts Education” is part of a larger project – also called The Liberating Arts – that aims “to lead conversations regarding the enduring relevance of the liberal arts.” To learn more, visit theliberatingarts.org. It is available through publisher Plough, Bookshop, Amazon, and other outlets.