Wednesday, January 10, 2007
What does it mean to be "educated?"
A very nice article speaking directly to this core issue of CRI. It's "Liberal Education, Then and Now" by Peter Berkowitz, and you can find it in the newest issue of Policy Review, or here.
He finds that John Stuart Mill's notion of "many-sidedness" to be the key concept, and that "the highest justification of liberal education is that by forming free and well-furnished minds it prepares students to fashion for themselves a good life. More importantly, when it comes to applying Mill's thoughts to modern higher education, we should recognize that
Mill’s nineteenth-century analysis of liberal education is relevant to the twenty-first-century university not for the specific curriculum he proposes but because of the larger principles he outlines and the greater goods he clarifies. His analysis suggests several lessons. First, a liberal education aims to liberate the mind by furnishing it with literary, historical, scientific, and philosophical knowledge and by cultivating its capacity to question and answer on its own. Second, a liberal education must, in significant measure, provide not a smorgasbord of offerings but a shared content, because knowledge is cumulative and ideas have a history. Third, a liberal education must adapt to local realities, providing the elementary instruction, the stepping stones to higher stages of understanding, where grade school and high school education fail to perform their jobs. Fourth, the aim of a liberal education is not to achieve mastery in any one subject but an understanding of what mastery entails in the several main fields of human learning and an appreciation of the interconnections among the fields. Fifth, liberal education is not an alternative to specialization, but rather a sound preparation for it. Sixth, a liberal education culminates in the study of ethics, politics, and religion, studies which naturally begin with the near and familiar, extend to include the faraway and foreign, and reach their peak in the exploration, simultaneously sympathetic and critical, of the history of great debates about justice, faith, and reason. Seventh, all of this will be for naught if teaching is guided by the partisan or dogmatic spirit, so professors must be cultivated who will bring to the classroom the spirit of free and informed inquiry.
A thoughtful post and one that had me thinking, "That's just how I feel about liberal education". I have bookmarked this thoughtful blog.Post a Comment