In 2006, the MLA responded to the Teagle Foundation’s invitation to disciplinary associations to think about “the relationship between the goals and objectives of undergraduate concentrations in their disciplines and those of a liberal education.” The association brought together a working group of leaders in English and modern foreign languages, including college presidents and deans, as well as distinguished members of the legal and medical professions and visiting consultants. Working over a period of eighteen months, the group studied new ways of organizing English and language programs within the general parameters of a liberal arts education. The group also explored ways to strengthen majors in our fields and attract new generations of students to a traditional core of liberal study: language, literature, and culture.
The group concluded that the arts of language and the tools of literacy are key qualifications for full participation in the social, political, economic, literary, and cultural life of the twenty-first century. It affirmed the centrality of literature and reading to undergraduate education. Interpretation, translation, and cross-cultural communication are essential in today’s world. To meet the demands of technological innovation, globalized societies, and the explosion of disciplinary knowledge, we recommend four basic elements in the baccalaureate degree program in English and other languages: a coherent program of study, collaborative teamwork among faculty members, interdepartmental cooperative teaching, and the adoption of outcome measurements.