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Academic advising, to be “critical,” must be emancipatory. I argue that the task of critical advising today is to liberate students from the dominant conceptualization of higher education as pre-professional schooling in order to open them up to humanistic exploration and to help them make their education meaningful on their own terms. Inspired by Cornel West’s idea of going to college to learn how to die, I introduce the concept of “pre-dead” students to argue that the task of critical advising is to help students move from a premature professional narrowness to a maturation of the soul. Using Burns B. Crookston’s theory of education for human development, I argue that the task of critical advising is to open up students to self-examination by way of a deep, disciplined humanistic education that many students avoid, often due to parental, social, and economic pressures that push them toward premature professional narrowness. I develop my approach to critical advising in contrast to Andrew Puroway’s overtly political Frierian-inspired approach. I also offer some practical advising strategies and examples of how advisors can help students open themselves up to the life-changing study of the humanities.
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