During a lecture tour to promote his book, Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Matters, Michael Roth, President of Wesleyan University, entertained questions after a lecture to students at Peking University. The questions they raised included;
- Does liberal education really help students learn to think for themselves or just turn them into liberals?
- Is liberal education only about creating a pathway to elitism?
- Does liberal education create a bubble perspective that is ultimately disconnected from the reality of life?
President Roth's responses wove the educational perspectives of John Dewey and Jane Addams together into a pragmatic education philosophy. Emphasizing Addams' "emphasis upon humane responsiveness and social engagement" and Dewey's "practical idealism," he advocated that quality liberal learning must relate to society and strive to inform students in ways for them to be contributors to the well-being of society. These philosophical perspectives provide the foundation for the experience-based and engaged learning advocated by student affairs educators as well.
Reflecting back on the lecture, President Roth opined, "I left the lecture hall heartened that students in Beijing, like many across the United States, hope that that higher education will be pragmatic without being conformist, and that the college years will inspire them to think for themselves in ways that will be significant to others."