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CFP: Liberal Arts and Sciences Education and Core Texts in the European Context

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11-12 September 2015, Amsterdam University College,

Over the last century, European universities have evolved to become advanced research institutions, mainly offering academic training in specialised disciplines. The Bologna process that started in the late nineties encouraged European institutions of higher education to broaden their curricula and to commit to undergraduate education with increased vigour. One of the results of this development is that Europe is currently witnessing a proliferation of Liberal Arts and Sciences colleges and broad bachelor degrees. These degrees are meant to provide students with a comprehensive framework to help them orient their advanced studies. More importantly, they are designed to promote a liberal education that is focused not only on advanced research skills but also on shaping critical thinking skills, the ability to think across disciplines, the creative imagination, and civic engagement and leadership skills. People seem to agree that in an increasingly globalising and complex world, there is a growing demand for leaders and decision-makers who can think prudently and comprehensively about multifaceted problems and challenges.
Within this approach to undergraduate education, courses that involve core texts – i.e. classic texts from philosophical, historical, literary or cultural traditions – are gaining significance. Core texts, involving “the best that has been written” meet the challenges of modern higher education in a unique way. They not only develop the student’s philosophical, analytical, literary, and general reading skills, but they also suspend the concerns of the moment while opening up new normative, literary, psychological, philosophical, or political horizons. This has potentially formative and liberating effects. The dialectic between, on the one hand, the ideas and questions in classic texts and, on the other hand, the experience of today’s world promotes creativity, self-reflection, and independent thinking. Core texts have the potential to draw students out of their intellectual comfort zone, challenging their own beliefs and opinions. As such, these texts constitute an important part of a genuinely liberal education.
The conference means to bring people together who use core texts in one way or other in their courses, preferably in a liberal arts and sciences, broad bachelor, or comprehensive studies environment. A core text in this sense is any text that has stood or is likely to stand the test of time, from Plato to Derrida, from Homer to Dostoyevsky, from Augustine to Gandhi. The conference defines core texts in an inclusive way as any classic text that provides the foundation for a shared discourse whether from the Western or non-Western tradition, from ancient to (post-)modern time periods, and embedded in the humanities – philosophy, literature, history, and the arts – the social sciences – politics, anthropology, sociology, economics, and law – or the natural sciences – biology, physics, mathematics, etc. The conference invites reflection on questions about the meaning of a well-rounded liberal education, the role and meaning of core texts in European higher education, pedagogical aims, teaching pedagogies, assessment techniques, the selection of texts, core texts and big questions, and so forth.
In line with the focus of the conference, we are especially keen to receive paper proposals that address one of the above questions and that include the discussion of a core text in the philosophical, literary, historical, or cultural tradition. Papers are required to be short (seminar style essay, approximately five pages double-spaced). The usual presentation time allotted to each paper is 12-15 minutes. Panels should be designed to encourage lively liberal arts and sciences discussions, not only about teaching and skills but also about the content of the liberal arts and the liberal sciences.
The deadline for paper proposals and / or panel proposals is Saturday, March 14th, 2015 (midnight). Proposals are submitted by sending the following information to libartsconf@gmail.com:
· Your name, affiliation and e-mail address
· A title for the paper(s)
· An abstract for the paper (max. 500 words)
· For panel proposals only: a title for and description of the panel theme (max. 250 words)
You will be notified whether your proposal can be accommodated before the end of April 2015.
For questions or further information about the conference, please contact libartsconf@gmail.com or a member of the organizing committee.
Keynote speakers:
Roosevelt Montás, Director of the Center for the Core Curriculum, Columbia University
Thomas Rommel, Rector and Provost Bard College Berlin
Tom Stapleford, Program of Liberal Studies, University of Notre Dame
Nigel Tubbs, Program Leader for Modern Liberal Arts, University of Winchester
Organizing committee:
Emma Cohen de Lara, Lecturer Political Theory, Amsterdam University College (e.cohendelara@auc.nl)
Claudia Heuer, Lecturer Modernist Literature, Leuphana University Lüneburg (claudia.heuer@inkubator.leuphana.de)
Rebekah Howes, Senior Lecturer in Modern Liberal Arts, University of Winchester (rebekah.howes@winchester.ac.uk)
Deirdre Klein-Bog, Head of Studies Academic Core, Amsterdam University College (d.v.kleinbog@auc.nl)
José M. Torralba, Director of the Institute for Anthropology and Ethics, Universidad de Navarra (jmtorralba@unav.es)