Finding Common Ground

By Guest Contributor

Many thanks to the staff of the Campus for its coverage of the Project on Creativity and Innovation, including the accompanying editorial, “Expanding Your Liberal Arts Education.”

As a faculty member, I am encouraged when all members of our community engage in lively, even contentious back-and-forth on the meaning and goals of a liberal arts education. So while I don’t always agree with the perspectives of [Associate Professor of Mathematics] John Schmitt  and [Assistant Professor of Philosophy] Kareem Khalifa, who were quoted in your coverage, I always learn from them and from our exchanges.

And as is often true when one discusses issues that matter, I have discovered, when we engage, we find more common ground than might have first been evident. In conversations with Schmitt, for example, I have learned how highly we both value the two words on the Middlebury seal, “Scientia et Virtus.” With Khalifa, I have discovered how strongly we both feel that fundamental questions at the heart of philosophy — “What is the meaning of my life? What is the right thing to do?” —  should ground the liberal arts experience.

Airing our differences, in other words, reveals common values. As your articles illustrate, the Campus is an excellent venue for sharing varied perspectives found at Middlebury about the liberal arts.

Written by JOHN ISHAM, professor of economics and faculty director of MCSE