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A Tradition of Engaged Citizenship

Story by
Robert Stacey

Another election season is upon us. In keeping with the season, this issue of Perspectives focuses on some of the many ways in which the faculty, staff, and students of the College of Arts and Sciences contribute to the richness of our civic life.

Bob Stacey

Bob Stacey Media credit: Jacob Lambert

In partnership with The Seattle Times, Professor David Domke and his students are reporting on election races around the country and here in Seattle. Together with the Seattle CityClub, Professor Lance Bennett and his colleagues in the Center for Communication and Civic Engagement have created an interactive online voters’ guide that facilitates citizen discussion about state and local ballot measures and initiatives. Professor Matt Barreto has emerged as a nationallyrecognized
expert on political polling in general and Latino voting patterns in particular, while the research of Professors Christopher Parker and Tony Greenwald is bringing new insight into some of the deeper reasons Americans vote (and believe) as we do.

Appropriately, these efforts are strictly non-partisan. But we are no less proud of the Arts and Sciences alumni running for office. In 2012, both major party candidates for governor are A&S graduates, and so too are dozens of other candidates running for state, county, and municipal offices and judgeships. The commitment of all these candidates to active and engaged citizenship stands in the finest traditions of the College of Arts and Sciences—traditions that stretch back not only to the founding of our College 150 years ago, but to the origins in classical Greece and Rome of the liberal arts education we still offer today.

Despite the suspicions of our critics, the goal of a liberal arts education is not to produce political liberals. Nor has it ever been. The Romans invented the term; and the Latin root of “liberal” is “liber, libera”, meaning “free.” The subjects that comprise a liberal arts education have of course changed since Roman days. No doubt they will continue to change in the years to come. But for 2000 years, the goal of a liberal arts education has been to provide free people with the knowledge they must possess in order to govern themselves effectively and preserve their freedoms from tyrants. The capacity to speak and write persuasively, and to understand the complexity of the world in which we live, remain the essentials of an education in the College of Arts and Sciences today, as they have been throughout the long history of higher education in the West.

From the beginning, the liberal arts have prepared students to be citizens of a free republic. It is with pride that we carry on that mission today.
Robert Stacey
Interim Dean, College of Arts and Sciences