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Education Reformer Leon Botstein to Speak at U.Va. Feb. 1

Leon Botstein, president of Bard College since 1975 and an advocate for education reform, will give a free public talk at the University of Virginia on “Resisting Complacency, Fear and the Philistine: Modernization, Tradition and the University” on Feb. 1 at 4 p.m. in Minor Hall auditorium, with a reception to follow.

His visit is co-sponsored by the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture and the Institute of the Humanities and Global Cultures, which has been considering “the Future of the University” in a yearlong series of events.

Botstein, also the Leon Levy Professor in the Arts and Humanities at Bard, is music director of the American Symphony Orchestra and a composer.

In his writings and lectures, he has challenged the current idea that higher education is in decline and championed ways to inspire a love of learning in America’s youth, including universities getting involved in improving secondary education.

He described a model for the reform and acceleration of American high school education in his 1997 book, “Jefferson’s Children: Education and the Promise of American Culture.” Bard has put the model into practice, running public high schools or partnering with them in New York City; Newark, N.J.; New Orleans; Delano, Calif.; and Great Barrington, Mass. In addition, Bard has introduced a liberal arts B.A. degree-granting program into five maximum- and medium-security prisons in New York, and has plans to expand the program into a national network.

Botstein currently chairs the board of the Central European University and is a board member of the Open Society Foundations.

In the introduction to “Jefferson’s Children,” Botstein writes, “The university can be a center for and a model of cultural creation, debate, service and political exchange among citizens of the future, one that is dominated not by commerce and a narrow definition of utility, but by a love of learning.”

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