What is the value of a liberal education? Traditionally characterized by a rigorous engagement with the classics of Western thought and literature, this approach to education is all but extinct in American universities, replaced by flexible distribution requirements and ever-narrower academic specialization. Many academics attack the very idea of a Western canon as chauvinistic, while the general public increasingly doubts the value of the humanities. In Rescuing Socrates, Dominican-born American academic Roosevelt Montás tells the story of how a liberal education transformed his life, and offers an intimate account of the relevance of the Great Books today, especially to members of historically marginalized communities.
Weaving together memoir and literary reflection, Rescuing Socrates describes how four authors—Plato, Augustine, Freud, and Gandhi—had a profound impact on Montás’s life. In doing so, the book drives home what it’s like to experience a liberal education—and why it can still remake lives.
Roosevelt Montás is Senior Lecturer in American Studies and English at Columbia University and director of the Freedom and Citizenship Program, which introduces low-income high school students to the Western political tradition through the study of foundational texts. From 2008 to 2018, he served as director of Columbia’s Center for the Core Curriculum. He is the author of Rescuing Socrates: How the Great Books Changed My Life and Why They Matter for a New Generation, (Princeton University Press, 2021).