Links Related to Fareed Zakaria, "In Defense of a Liberal Education"

(In my "What Am I Doing Here? The Value of a Liberal Arts Education" class, we have been reading Fareed Zakaria's new book, In Defense of a Liberal Education. These are some links I shared with my students in office hours meetings yesterday)

1. Some of you picked up on some of the issues in Zakaria's chapter 4 relating to problems with the current system of higher education. While a robust university system is seen as an equalizing force (and as a way of protecting democracy -- Jefferson), at the present moment there are disturbing signs that our college system helps well-off students stay in the upper-income brackets, while only a small slice of students from low-income backgrounds are able to rise up the ladder:

Thomas Edsall, "The Reproduction of Privilege" (New York Times)

2. Others were interested in Zakaria's claims about the surprising density of tech innovations in the United States given how poor U.S. students tend to fare on the PISA scores.

One explanation has to do with the role played by American research universities in stimulating innovation. Research at Stanford, for instance, was key to the development of silicon valley in the early stages:

3. Others were interested in Zakaria's claim that it doesn't matter that much *what* you major in. What matters more is the quality of the liberal arts education you receive on the whole.
This is supported by studies:

4. One of you was interested in the claim that the United States spends more per capita on its education system (K-12) than any other country. In fact, that's not quite true anymore -- four countries rank higher:

As a side-note, you'll notice that these issues will be debated through the American presidential campaign, as candidates discuss the problems with K-12 education system. You can be more informed listeners!

5. Also, a couple of you were interested in Robert Harris' link between happiness and education. Harris doesn't give any citations for his claim in his essay, but the link is actually pretty well supported by research by professional economists and sociologists in numerous studies.

6. One of Zakaria's sources regarding the problems with the college admission system is actually his own article in Time Magazine, "The Thin-Envelope Crisis." I referred a couple of you to that piece -- it is here:,9171,2140209,00.html