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The Liberating Arts

Why We Need Liberal Arts Education

Edited by Jeffrey BilbroJessica Hooten Wilson, & David Henreckson

Featuring Jeffrey Bilbro, Jessica Hooten Wilson, David Henreckson, Emily Auerbach, Nathan Beacom, Joseph Clair, Margarita Mooney Clayton, Lydia S. Dugdale, Brad East, Don Eben, Becky L Eggimann, Rachel B Griffis, Zena Hitz, David Hsu, L. Gregory Jones, Brandon McCoy, Peter Mommsen, Angel Adams Parham, Steve A. Prince, John Mark Reynolds, Erin Shaw, Sean Sword, Anne Snyder, Noah Toly and Jonathan Tran

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Paperback: 224  pages
Publisher: Plough Publishing House
Publish Date: August 15, 2023
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1636080677
ISBN-13: 9781636080673

A new generation of teachers envisions a liberal arts education that is good for everyone.

Why would anyone study the liberal arts? It’s no secret that the liberal arts have fallen out of favor and are struggling to prove their relevance. The cost of college pushes students to majors and degrees with more obvious career outcomes.

A new cohort of educators isn’t taking this lying down. They realize they need to reimagine and rearticulate what a liberal arts education is for, and what it might look like in today’s world. In this book, they make an honest reckoning with the history and current state of the liberal arts.

You may have heard – or asked – some of these questions yourself:

  • Aren’t the liberal arts a waste of time? How will reading old books and discussing abstract ideas help us feed the hungry, liberate the oppressed and reverse climate change? Actually, we first need to understand what we mean by truth, the good life, and justice.
  • Aren’t the liberal arts racist? The “great books” are mostly by privileged dead white males. Despite these objections, for centuries the liberal arts have been a resource for those working for a better world. Here’s how we can benefit from ancient voices while expanding the conversation.
  • Aren’t the liberal arts liberal? Aren’t humanities professors mostly progressive ideologues who indoctrinate students? In fact, the liberal arts are an age-old tradition of moral formation, teaching people to think for themselves and learn from other perspectives.
  • Aren’t the liberal arts elitist? Hasn’t humanities education too often excluded poor people and minorities? While that has sometime been the case, these educators map out well-proven ways to include people of all social and educational backgrounds.
  • Aren’t the liberal arts a bad career investment? I really just want to get a well-paying job and not end up as an overeducated barista. The numbers – and the people hiring – tell a different story.

In this book, educators mount a vigorous defense of the humanist tradition, but also chart a path forward, building on their tradition’s strengths and addressing its failures. In each chapter, dispatches from innovators describe concrete ways this is being put into practice, showing that the liberal arts are not only viable today, but vital to our future.


Jessica Hooten Wilson is the Fletcher Jones Endowed Chair of Great Books at Pepperdine University (’23) and previously served as the Seaver College Scholar of Liberal Arts at Pepperdine University (’22-’23). She co-hosts a podcast called The Scandal of Reading: Pursuing Holy Wisdom with Christ & Pop Culture, where she discusses with fellow authors, professors, and theologians with Claude Atcho and Austin Carty. She is the author of Flannery O’Connor’s Why Do the Heathen Rage?: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at a Work in Progress (Brazos Press, January 23, 2024); Reading for the Love of God: How to Read as a Spiritual Practice (Brazos Press, 2023); Scandal of Holiness: Renewing Your Imagination in the Company of Literary Saints (Brazos Press, 2022) which received Christianity Today 2023 Award of Merit (Culture & the Arts) and a Midwest Book Review 2023 Silver Book Award (Nonfiction – Religion/Philosophy); co-author with Dr. Jacob Stratman of Learning the Good Life: Wisdom from the Great Hearts and Minds that Came Before (Zondervan Academic, 2022)Giving the Devil his Due: Demonic Authority in the Fiction of Flannery O’Connor and Fyodor Dostoevsky (February 28, 2017), which received a 2018 Christianity Today Book of the Year Award in the Culture & the Arts; as well as two books on Walker Percy: The Search for Influence: Walker Percy and Fyodor Dostoevsky (Ohio State University Press, 2017) and Reading Walker Percy’s Novels (Louisiana State University Press, 2018); most recently she co-edited Solzhenitsyn and American Culture: The Russian Soul in the West (University of Notre Dame Press, 2020).

She has received numerous fellowships, grants, and awards, including a Fulbright Fellowship to the Czech Republic, an NEH grant to study Dante in Florence in 2014, and the Biola Center for Christian Thought sabbatical fellowship. In 2018 she received the Emerging Public Intellectual Award given by a coalition of North American think tanks in collaboration with the Centre for Christian Scholarship at Redeemer University College, and in 2019 she received the Hiett Prize in Humanities from The Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture.