Andrew Delbanco, Director of American Studies at Columbia University ( www.columbia.edu/cu/amstudies ), is the author of College: What it Was, Is, and Should Be (Princeton University Press (March 20, 2012) (Finalist for the 2012 Book of the Year Award in Education).
The Center for American Studies offers students the opportunity to explore the experience and values of the people of the United States as embodied in their history, literature, politics, art, and other enduring forms of cultural expression.
Andrew Delbanco for his insight into the American character, past and present. He has been called “America’s best social critic” for his essays on current issues and higher education. As a professor in American studies, he reveals how classics by Melville and Emerson have shaped our history and contemporary life.
It is also true, however, that such training does not provide an adequate foundation for addressing the more abstract, but profoundly important, questions that ultimately must guide global policy and decision-making. For example:
- How can the imperative of economic development be reconciled with the need to limit climate change?
- What does national sovereignty mean in a world where diseases, pollutants, and terrorists cross national borders at will?
- Are there universal human rights that transcend conflicting claims of particular cultural traditions?
- How should limited resources be distributed in order to provide opportunity and hope to young people, while treating the elderly with dignity and respect?
- What are a country’s obligations to refugees fleeing from persecution, poverty, or strife elsewhere?
- How should we balance individual liberty and collective security?
In answering such questions, advances in science and technology (for example, new methods of energy production, surveillance, or online learning) will have a key role to play. But moral and ethical questions never yield fully to technical solutions; they also require an understanding of humanity’s social and cultural heritage. Science can help us to attain the life we want, but it cannot teach us what kind of life is worth wanting...