National Collegiate Honors Council


Date of this Version



Published in Honors in Practice: A Publication of the National Collegiate Honors Council, Volume 11 (2015)


Copyright © 2015 by the National Collegiate Honors Council.


In her compelling case for liberal education, Martha Nussbaum emphasizes the nuances of the examined life and in particular how essential the narrative imagination is to “cultivating humanity” (9–11). While Nussbaum is advocating for liberal education in general terms, her call is particularly suited to the mission of honors education and its mandate for “broader, deeper, and more complex” learning experiences (NCHC Board of Directors). Nussbaum’s conceptual scheme encourages education in support of openness, intensity, and breadth, in particular urging approaches that require an ability to acknowledge and reconsider one’s own culture, traditions, and ways of thinking. At times, this task seems particularly challenging in the early adulthood of a traditional undergraduate. Most students—like most human beings— struggle with how to enact the educational processes of critical thinking and critical examination, even in the case of honors, which tends, as a cohort, to be particularly rich in students who think in questioning ways and which often includes a greater proportion of students and colleagues who have multiple heritages and broad ranges of experience. These composite heritages create for the student a situation that is “peculiar rather than privileged” and, potentially, a special role “to act as bridges, go-betweens, mediators, between the various communities and cultures” (Maalouf 5). Honors is thus a particularly opportune educational site to cultivate the thinking and critical examination fundamental to this special role.