Frankly Speaking: Is Stanford a vocational school?

March 2, 2020, 2:54 a.m.

Welcome to the Week 9 edition of Frankly Speaking. Frankly Speaking is aimed at extending discourse and debate on important subjects beyond Daily staffers. We want to hear from students — across disciplines and social identities — about their takes on the controversial topics and vital realities we confront. If you want to have your take on campus news published in The Daily, contribute to the next edition of Frankly Speaking at

Last week, we asked if identity politics chills campus discourse. Some of the considered responses we received were published here

This week’s topic: Is Stanford a vocational school?

The Stanford administration is in the process of redesigning the first-year experience to center on providing students a liberal education, broadly construed. In the design team’s executive summary, it writes, “Unlike vocational or professional studies, a liberal education trains students to be critical thinkers with a well-rounded knowledge base, including some areas of depth.”

Ruei-Hung Alex Lee argues in The Stanford Review that there is nothing wrong with Stanford’s increasingly vocational focus, and that desired skills of critical thinking and ethically-engaged work can be learned with precision and nuance within vocational majors.

“Many of my friends at Stanford,” he writes, “did not come here to explore the human condition but for a stepping stone into a practical and lucrative career, so let’s stop insisting we’re a liberal arts school.”

In response, Daily opinions editor Adrian Liu argues for a more robust conception of a vocation: “[A] vocation can be a person’s trade or profession, but it can also be a person’s calling, a person’s life-work, which she finds particularly worthy and to which she feels a sense of great dedication.” Under this second conception of vocation, Liu argues, Stanford is not a vocational school, and it would be better if Stanford were a vocational school.

What does it mean to say that Stanford is a vocational school? Is it a vocational school? And lastly, is this a good thing or a bad thing? 

Here’s the link again: If you have any questions, please email opinions ‘at’

We look forward to hearing from you.

— The Opinions Team, Volume 257

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