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Guest Thinkers

The Limits of a Secular Education

When college students and professors are faced with profound questions, such as the meaning of life and death, they typically express their answers in deeply religious terms.

When a liberal arts education is framed in terms of questions about life’s purposes, students express an unmistakable pent-up desire to introduce deep commitments, including religious ones, into public arenas, including the classroom. In turn, liberal arts colleges work best and allow students to become who they are when students are afforded the room to search and interrogate their commitments—especially their religious commitments—in public ways. The fear and the reality is that liberal arts colleges are failing this mission insofar as students and faculty feel that when they step onto liberal arts campuses they have to bracket or repress just the sort of deep commitments, religious or otherwise, that might be crucial to addressing these sorts of questions.


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