Shalem College, the first liberal arts college in Israel, will open its doors this coming fall. The plan is to begin recruiting students immediately with hopes of having an initial class of 50 students. They hope to eventually expand the student body to 1,000. The college will offer a four-year bachelor’s degree program consisting of a broad education in humanities and philosophy.
One might wonder what could possibly be the impetus for founding a liberal arts college at this point in history in a country with no tradition of such an educational format. I will cite an extensive quote from the president of the college as reported in the Jerusalem Post on January 13, 2013:
“The world is changing very fast, and the things we need to know now may be different in five or 10 or 20 years,” said Martin Kramer, the president-designate.
“A liberal arts degree is not training; it prepares you for change. Liberal arts schools are opening up from China to the West Bank; Al-Quds University has a partnership with Bard [College near Albany, New York]. If you’re narrowly trained, you’re likely to become superseded by changes in market and changes in technology. It is crucial to have skills of critical thinking and to have the skills to speak and to write,” said Kramer.
“The [education] system as it exists doesn’t produce versatile people; it produces specialized people,” he continued.
“Every economy needs specialized people, but a changing society is better addressed by people with a broader education.”
This is very forward thinking. We are rapidly approaching a time when the world will be in desperate need of well-trained liberal artists.