The cover for Juniata Voices reflects a conscious decision by the Editorial Board to project an image of the College as a "classic" liberal arts institution. The graphic was taken from the 1925 cover of the Alfarata, our yearbook. It is no doubt the case that the editors of that year's Alfarata had the same objective, to portray Juniata as a liberal arts college in the classic tradition. However, in neither 1925 nor 2002, when the Voices cover was designed, was Juniata a classic liberal arts school. We were, rather, a liberal arts college firmly embedded in the educational culture of a particular time and place, one that in very few ways could be seen as classical. Our concerns are - and were - very temporal. The themes we explore in our lecture series reflect far more the issues of the present than any classic heritage.
The lectures represented in Voices illustrate an emerging tradition among liberal arts colleges. For over a generation, since the transformations of the 1960s, liberal arts institutions have striven for relevance in the context of rapidly changing social, economic, political, and cultural contexts. We have sought to demonstrate to our students why issues raised in classical texts matter in the "modern" world. In the process, the entire meaning of classical texts has been transformed. Few would now doubt that the Bhagavadgita or Popol vuh should be considered as much a part of the classical library as Plato's Republic. We offer these readings to students so that they can encounter texts that might shape their understanding of the contemporary world. It is perhaps not the "classic" meaning of these texts that matter, but how they are read and understood within the present. In the words of our marketing department, we challenge students to think, to evolve, and to act through their liberal education.
A critical reading of this year's table of contents suggests some of the functions of public lectures in the contemporary liberal education. They are, for example, intended to challenge (or chide) students into thinking how they can be changed by seriously engaging the bountiful options available to them in school. Henry Thurston-Griswold, Stanley Ikenberry, Emil Nagengast, and Jim Borgardt used their voices to inspire students to see education as a transformative process. Their call was not to learn the "eternal verities" of some imagined classic universe, but to critically engage their universe in ways that could change how they saw the world and their place in it. They echoed the College's mission statement, which states that the "aim of education is to awaken students to the empowering richness of the mind and to enable them to lead fulfilling and useful lives."
A transformed life leads to new ways of engaging the world.
Jim Skelly traced his personal transformation into a conscientious objector and then challenged the listener to contemplate what that means for contemporary conflicts. Heinz Kreft reminds the audience that despite profoundly held differences around the decision to go to war in Iraq, the Atlantic community holds common values and objectives that might guide us in a post-war community of nations.
These lectures then enable us to reflect upon the purpose of a "contemporary liberal education." Lectures and other educational activities challenge students to think. By thinking, students change, they evolve into people transformed by the process of thinking. From that transformation comes the capacity and willingness to act.
We invite you to share some parts of the educational experience at Juniata over the past year in the hope that you too might share in that liberal transformation.