Liberal Arts Education and POSTECH
Liberal Arts Education and POSTECH
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  • 승인 2011.01.01 22:21
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In the aftermath of the current global financial crisis followed by a severe economic recession, people have begun to examine the moral hazards associated with leaders in general and finance specialists in particular. David Brooks, the New York Times columnist, stated that “one of the great achievements of modern times is that we have made society more fair and more meritocratic, but the public standing of our institutions has generally gone down. Furthermore, we have increased the diversity and the talent level of people at the top of society, yet trust in elites has never been lower.” One can wonder what has happened. The Ivy-league schools’ graduates had been going to Wall Street in droves over the last 2-3 decades. The Wall Street bankers and investors essentially looted the government and society repeatedly; they borrowed huge amounts of money, made big profits and bonuses when times were good, and then left the government holding the bag for their eventual losses. In other words, profits are privatized and losses are socialized in a rather predictable and repeating manner. In retrospect, a major portion of the current societal woes stem from the facts that the modern meritocracy, whether it is financial or technological, is based on overly narrowly defined talents and the system has been encouraging short-term thinking, and thus has produced leaders lacking of integrity, sustainable moral values and vision. A number of prominent business schools have recently re-evaluated the traditional business school curricula and concluded that they are too vocationally oriented with too much emphasis on quantifiable analyses and methods. Thus, many business schools are now moving their educational programs toward a territory more traditionally associated with liberal arts education, including critical thinking, multidisciplinary perspectives, and understanding cultural contexts.

What is liberal (arts) education? The US Association of Colleges and Universities defines liberal education as “a philosophy of education that empowers individuals, that liberates the mind from ignorance, and that cultivates social responsibility.” Liberal education is also defined as “education committed to nurturing skills for life rather than for workplace, fostering one’s identity and roles, cultivating one’s mind, and teaching how to learn.” Over the years liberal education more than others has been proven to induce and cultivate critical and integrative thinking, and leadership qualities. Despite its high desirability, liberal education has been deemed unsuccessful in many research-oriented university settings, especially with a large clientele, for various reasons including faculty evaluation and reward systems, high cost, and many new emerging disciplines competing for the status of essential core knowledge.

POSTECH was born with dual missions that 1) cutting edge research must be carried out by faculty, staff, and graduate students, and 2) future global leaders in science and technology who are armed with high value-added knowledge and sound ideology must be produced. POSTECH’s research capability and output have been rated very highly domestically as well as globally as reflected in recent university rankings, and are still improving. In terms of educational goals, our students are expected to possess fully integrated professional competence and overflowing creativity together with solid leadership. Undoubtedly these qualities come from dedicated learning processes and repeated practice, and serious and critical thinking habits. Leadership training should also entail moral, aesthetic and even spiritual value systems. POSTECH’s missions demand that high level education be carried out in both the technical/professional and liberal education areas. The general consensus seems to indicate that the technical and professional competence levels of our graduates are high and adequate, although they need to be more creative and innovative in their professional disciplines, but the liberal education-related qualities need to be substantially upgraded. The multiple educational goals of professional competence, creativity and leadership may not be easy to accomplish. But I personally believe these goals, tough as they are, can and should be successfully met by the additional and best efforts on the part of the administration, faculty and also students. At present there is an on-going discussion on ‘POSTECH’s liberal arts vision 2020’, which proposes a substantial revamping of the current programs of humanities, art and social sciences (HASS) curriculum. It is hoped that these proposals will be promptly and successfully implemented, eventually leading to great improvements on the creativity and leadership qualities of our graduates.








Sung-Kee Chung
Professor and Former President