Liberal Education and America's Promise (LEAP) is an initiative launched by the Association of American Colleges and University that promotes a 21st century liberal education in a nation that demands more college-educated workers and more engaged and informed citizens than in the past. This initiative challenges a traditional approach to education and instead defines a 21st-century liberal education as “an approach to learning that empowers individuals and prepares them to deal with complexity, diversity, and change.” This includes providing students with a broader knowledge of the world, especially in areas of science, culture, and society, in addition to study in a specific area of interest, so that students can develop a sense of social responsibility and develop transferable, practical skills. The “Essential Outcomes” of this initiative include:
a) Knowledge of Human Cultures and the Physical and Natural World – (Study in science, social sciences, humanities, histories, languages, and the arts)
b) Intellectual and Practical Skills – (Writing, analysis, communication, quantitative literacy, critical thinking, etc)
c) Personal and Social Responsibility – (Civic knowledge and engagement, intercultural knowledge, ethical reasoning, skills for lifelong learning
d) Integrative and Applied learning – (Synthesis and advanced accomplishments)
Overall, the goal of LEAP is to provide students of this century with broad learning in several disciplines as well as an in-depth study so as to encourage students to be well-rounded, flexible, and prepared to thrive in a global world that is rapidly changing.
In my opinion, LEAP is a terrific vision for the future of our education system. I have often wondered at the very divided and specialized nature of higher education specifically. In my later years of high school there was a general understanding among my peers and I planning on attending college that we had to choose between a concentration in math and science or liberal and fine arts. While I don't regret having chosen the liberal arts track and concentrating my university studies in anthropology and Spanish, I have always regretted ending my pursuit of other subjects, especially math. I have heard many other cases of this: In one case, a friend who was the president of his high school's math team chose to major in English and philosophy and has taken only one math class since high school. Another friend attempted to complete a sociology degree in addition to his math degree but could not complete it in time to graduate. On the other hand, many students in science-related subjects have no time to pursue other areas of study, especially languages, and are not allowed enough opportunity or time to study abroad. Aside from minimal general education requirements (which are hardly worthwhile in my opinion), there is not much opportunity to receive a well-rounded education in various subjects.
I appreciate the nature of Spanish 232 Community Service Learning for this very reason—it provides students of many different majors the opportunity to develop skills outside of the classroom and often outside of their specialized areas of study. Not only are we developing Spanish language skills, we gain practical skills needed to work in offices, classrooms, community events, etc. Furthermore, through our community service we develop a broader understanding of different cultures and societies, especially the local Spanish-speaking community. We are encouraged to engage in and provide service to the community, stay informed of local, national, and international issues, and overall to become life-long learners. It is refreshing to be collaborating with students of all majors and colleges that are interested in expanding their knowledge in other areas and engaging in the community.
I believe that LEAP's goals and initiatives would coincide nicely with those of bilingual classrooms as well. If two-way bilingual education continues to expand across the country, as it has been, I believe future generations will be more open-minded and better equipped to thrive in our global world. As I have expanded upon in previous blogs, bilingual education allows students not only to become bilingual but also to develop a deep understanding of other cultures and a true appreciation for diversity. The students in my kindergarten classroom, though only 5 and 6 years old, are more competent in both English and Spanish and more knowledgable of various cultures than many American adults whose education systems were largely focused on Anglo-american language, culture, and history. I believe that in the years to come, these students will be among the most well-rounded in the nation, and among the most prepared and willing to pursue education in various fields.