Liberal Arts in Asia:
The Crucial Value-Added for the 21st Century
The high-tech-based growth of Asian economies since the turn of the Millennium has been world-historical in nature, leaving little doubt that the 21st will be The Asian Century.
In this context, Asia will benefit greatly from the mistakes of the West if it learns to appreciate and integrate the cultural elements that enabled Europe and the US to recover in the second half of the 20th century from the horrific self-inflicted wounds of the first.
In building an enduring climate for enlightened Asian leadership of the 21st century, expanding the influence of the liberal arts and humanities will be imperative.
While technical excellence is economically vital, a deep understanding of the West will help Asia incorporate its strengths and avoid its weaknesses.
Spearheading this critical effort is the aim of the American Center for Applied Liberal Arts and Humanities in Asia - ACALAHA.
With its diverse programs in Public Enlightenment / Career Development / and Education Institutions - and focus on applying the accumulated lessons of the Western experience to the real-world issues of the 21st Asian century -
ACALAHA can play a key role in bringing together the best of the East and West, creating a brighter future for both.
The Origins of Applied Liberal Arts and Humanities
The roots of "applied liberal arts and humanities" can be found in the latter years of the 1980s, when Harvard / Princeton graduate
David Caploe began to consider the issue of how media could
simultaneously be so powerful and so poorly understood.
After considerable reflection, he came to realize that the only way media could be analyzed was through a concentrated / inter-disciplinary re-conceptualization of the entire issue.
This would bring together the best elements of the liberal arts / humanities tradition into a powerful synthesis - aimed at dealing in a systematic and reflective way with real-world problems - rather than sterile academic turf-wars and irrelevant debates.
The result was the discipline of MediAnalysis - a conceptual framework that innovatively combines critical theory / political economy / and a sensitive rendition of Western cultural history from the Italian Renaissance to the age of the Internet.
In the course of developing first the intellectual - and then institutional - practice of MediAnalysis at numerous academic institutions in the US, one key point became clear to him and his colleagues:
What had arisen was tremendously useful not just in understanding media - and everything that goes into its complex relationship with the rest of society - but also in developing critical thinking skills in a faster and more profound way than any previous effort in that area.
Attracted to Asia's vitality and dynamism - and disturbed by negative trends in American politics / economy / and society - he decided to bring his innovative program to Singapore, where his operations are now based, serving as a springboard to bring the best of Western liberal arts and humanities to South / East Asia, from India to China and Japan and everywhere in between.