Once upon a time, the Greek philosopher Socrates opined the aphorism “Know Thyself,” a credo that centuries later became the core principle of the so-called “liberal” education — a learning process founded on the notion that a well-chosen sampling of the great ideas, literature, art and history of humankind coupled with critical analysis would produce a well-educated citizen, capable of independent and reasoned thoughts.
Like many in my post-World War II generation — a generation that promoted civil rights and challenged the American war-making machine in Vietnam, I greatly benefited from the “liberal” education provided to me by my alma mater, Wake Forest University. Whether in the Honors Program or through the many campus and community activities of that era, we were a generation of college students engaged in understanding who we were as human beings and using that knowledge to create a better society. Personal and intellectual integrity as well as being true to one’s self were the hallmarks of the Wake Forest experience. It was never about the politics of the left or the right.
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Keith McDowell is a retired professor of chemistry at the University of Texas at Arlington and was vice chancellor for research and technology transfer for the UT System from 2007 to 2010.