Campus News

Bowdoin Graduate Examines Future of Small Liberal Arts Colleges

Story posted April 15, 1999

April 16, 1999, BRUNSWICK, Maine -- America's small liberal arts face tough survival issues as the 20th century ends. "Daedalus," the Journal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, dedicates its current issue to discussing the purpose, value and future of small liberal arts colleges. One of the essays featured in the study was written by Geoffrey Canada, graduate and trustee of Bowdoin College.

Assumptions that research, vocational education and technology hold the keys to the future has endangered these colleges traditional approach to education centered on small classes and learning in a residential environment. Because their enrollments, athletic programs and number of alumni pale in comparison to those of major research institutions, the challenges facing these colleges go unnoticed by much of the population.

Geoffrey Canada was one of about 70 African-Americans attending Bowdoin when he entered the College in 1970. Though doubtful at first that the College was one at which he wanted to stay (no girls at the time and few other African Americans) he stayed and found that the unique environment of a small liberal arts college was one that nurtured its students and pushed him to realize his dreams.

"When we look at our country today, it is more segregated than ever, not just by race, but by class... I find it significant that many of my closest friends are people who went to Bowdoin, and they are rich and poor, black and white... [W]e went through something that made us aware of the real promise of America: a democracy that works, equal opportunity for all, a system of government where your station in life is based not on your color, race, religion, or sex, but on your achievement," Canada writes in "Daedalus." "When you see that vision you recognize how awesome it is, how awesome the promise of America is, and why liberal arts colleges like Bowdoin, where that vision was nurtured and continues to be supported, are critical to making that vision a reality for all the country and indeed the world."

The edition of "Daedalus" dedicated to examining liberal arts colleges in the United States is a collaboration between "Daedalus" and The Annapolis Group, an association of the nation's leading liberal arts colleges. It is hoped that the essays will spark interest among the public in the future of this form of American education.

More information about the Winter 1999 issue of "Daedalus" is available at the Web site of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

More information about the Annapolis Group can be found at

A reprint of Geoffrey Canada's essay in "Daedalus" is available at

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