The relationship between liberal education freedom and democracy

Liberalism and Liberal Education - Wikisource, the free online library

the relationship between liberal education freedom and democracy

ticultural education when concepts such as "freedom" and "opportuni- Association annual meeting in Chicago in April, tParaphrase of J.R Lucas, questions of political theory and presuppose a liberal democratic theory 5- the kind of. Not only are the major problems of education—whether in relation to the . and extend liberal education or perish, since democracy is the society of free men. . And individual, civil liberty, freedom from being regulated or. By Mary Marcy Education creates an educated citizenry capable of the leadership essential to democracy. Liberal education, by questioning, exploring, and.

Everyone concerned to protect their rights or political influence is a special interest. The opportunities for such demagogic claims arise from the very structure of liberal democracy. The American Constitution, following Montesquieu more than Locke here, permits the executive a greater degree of latitude under the law so that fewer things need be done extralegally, but this is simply to say that the rhetoric of crisis and emergency has been brought within the constitutional structures, not that it has been banished Mansfield In a system where governors are seen as deputies of those with the actual right to rule, it is sensible that all extraordinary action be liable to judgment by those in whose name rule is exercised.

In democracies this is the majority. The majority must then be capable of this judgment. Legalism and a concern with obligation are not useful dispositions in the actual practice of politics. What one may or may not do is of little help in determining what should be done.

We have been witness to the fruitless debates that result from this perspective. The president claimed that Congress could not require that he obtain warrants in the conduct of foreign intelligence surveillance because national security required that he conduct warrantless wiretaps. Opponents said that the Authorization for the Use of Military Force did not authorize the invasion of Iraq because the latter did not actually advance the war against al-Qaeda.

What is needed is more than the bare formation of judgments, but of informed judgments. This is doubly important as political spin and grandstanding have greater entertainment value than analysis and so will invariably dominate mass media.

On the contrary, it seems that the major problem that liberal democracy faces, in practice if not to theorists, has less to do with technocrats than with demagogues and inconstant, ill-advised policies.

The reason individuals take their cue from whomever speaks from a privileged position is essentially that provided by Tocqueville for the omnipotence of majority opinion in a democracy: Our political system stands against the formation of this capacity for judgment.

Citizens who are subject to the law in many aspects of their lives naturally think in terms of what is permitted and what is not, which is to say that being administered inculcates legalistic habits of mind even if one is administered well.

They can support a war without fighting it and favor a law without enforcing it. The shear size of many states means that oftentimes they do not even see the effects of propositions they approve. So once again they are thrown back upon reliance on media personalities chosen by the size of the audience they can attract and who usually have an axe to grind.

Once again, the ability to campaign and to organize replace the ability to govern as the prerequisite for rule. Citizens are as engaged in politics as shareholders are in running a corporation.

That is precisely what we have desired.

Liberal Education for Freedom | National Affairs

It is probable that the public is more competently administered as a result. Yet this exclusion of the people from politics means that the people lack the sort of political experience that contributes greatly to making good judgments. Yet the need for them to make good judgments is not eliminated by their usually being administered well. Liberal democracy requires citizens with an elevated sense of self and the capacity for good judgment; our political institutions foster neither. Cultivating Virtue One cannot expect civil society to counter the education provided by the laws.

Even where successful, however, a civil society at odds with the vision of the good life implicit in the laws would make those most affected by it out of place, strangers in their own country. There is an additional difficulty peculiar to democracy in seeking to have a civil society that counteracts the vices of a political system: So the question must be the role of civil society in promoting civic virtue in a political system not so fully hostile to it as ours.

Could such a civil society sustain the system? Then we might ask whether some aspect of civil society might be used in the meantime to push our system in a more noble direction. To repeat, the total exclusion of citizens from the practice of politics, except as voters, reduces the likelihood that they will acquire the good judgment necessary for them to function as voters; such judgment now develops in spite of the laws rather than because of them.

A system less hostile to the development of this virtue would be more participatory; it would have less of what Tocqueville calls administrative centralization.

The professionalization of the law, the military, the police, public works, and the like is another way of expressing the centralization of administration.

Such a society would of course be more democratic. It would resemble more the New England townships creatively recounted by Tocqueville. We would have more in common with the ancient democracies than we do now. One result of this is obvious: If we must be on guard against democratic despotism, it is notable that Tocqueville thought that 19th-century Americans had more to fear from the tyranny of the majority. Modern politics, the exclusion of the people from governance, was intended to banish these vices.

As democracies of the past have shown, the bare involvement of the people in government does not render them less venal, superstitious, or imprudent.

the relationship between liberal education freedom and democracy

The chief role of civil society under more favorable conditions than our own would be to educate against these vices. We might wish that the laws provided greater support for such an education, condemning with the moral weight of the whole society certain cupidinous views, but that would be a wish that society no longer be liberal. What we are examining is a liberal solution to liberal dilemmas.

The most important institutions of education belong, therefore, to civil society. The most important part of that education is liberal education. What is needed is an education to gentility and refinement, an education that was formerly reserved to gentlemen but which, owing to our mastery of nature, can now be opened to significantly more people. Such education is more than an expedient against the vices of democracy, vices whose potential impact cannot be squashed if the people are to receive the kind of prudential education that comes only from actual participation in politics.

For a base, materialistic conception of self-interest argues against such participation in politics. The rewards of public service are intangible; the burdens real and easily appreciable. Ancient philosophers criticized the attractions of political life, but their analysis presumed some experience of them; a liberal education that reacquaints students with the attractions of political life can point beyond itself while still serving the public need for public spirited citizens, willing to contribute more to the functioning of government than just their taxes which are, after all, extracted by the threat of force.

Liberal education does not simply makes its beneficiaries proud; it introduces them to the right kind of pride. Such an education is never neutral regarding the greatest questions, but it is also not didactic.

It therefore elevates one above quotidian concerns as the only concerns in a manner that need not offend liberalism.

Given the importance of education in the functioning of democratic institutions, it would be foolish to move the laws in a more democratic direction when that education is absent. A better society than our own would make greater demands of its citizens with regard to participation in politics than we do; making these greater demands is relatively easy, and so might seem like a good first step in the right direction; yet such action would merely rearm all of the vices which the Framers of the Constitution sought to defang by excluding the people from the business of government.

If Franklin and countless others are correct that free institutions can be maintained only if the people is already free in their spirit, then a change in the laws cannot precede a successful popular education to liberty.

Yet other kinds of laws hinder this education. Strangers, then, there must be. In a democracy civil society at large must invariably mirror the people, but elements within it can attempt to sail against the current.

An education that seeks only to prepare students to earn an income can succeed, but such is a limited education. It might better be referred to as technical training. This training will always be supported by the laws, which is to say that a public education system will always tend toward training.

Every parent wants their children to do well financially, and the parents having been illiberally educated it is improbable that they will demand that the school do more; doing more means higher taxes and less technical training. By chance, however, higher education in this country is largely in private hands; this has set expectations of self-governance for state universities, as well, even if these are frequently disappointed.

The universities, having had their birth in another era, have at their core the liberal arts. Fortune, therefore, has smiled on us. There is an element already existing within society that has the potential to mold good citizens, i. Liberal democracy requires and presupposes liberal education. When this education is lacking, democracy becomes hostile to it. More and more state universities, especially below the flagship level, are pressured to provide technical training.

It is difficult to attract students to major in the liberal arts and sciences rather than in the schools of business, no matter how poorly the latter actually prepare students for the workplace. The sort of education that liberal society needs is at present available only to a few.

The dangers to the American university as it currently exists have been pointed out by countless others. Political correctness is opposed to the very spirit of liberal education, which presupposes and seeks to further encourage free inquiry and serious engagement with uncomfortable and discomforting thoughts. An emphasis on a specific canon and a curriculum that seeks to ensure that particular lessons be didactically extorted from that canon shares the same spirit as political correctness, even if it issues from a different partisan orientation.

When primary and secondary schools fail adequately to impart even the technical competence around which their curricula increasing revolve, there is little that a university can do to undo the damage, once again restricting access to the kind of education that our conquest of nature should be broadening.

Instead, my purpose is to highlight the contribution that the American university system can make to our civic health. Nor do I wish to discount the various other ways in which some segments of civil society can and sometimes do contribute to the formation of good citizens.

Patriotic organizations serve to indicate to children that politics and public service are things to be taken seriously, which can make them more attentive when it comes time to learn how to do these things well, for example. I do wish to suggest, however, that the greatest contribution that the other aspects of civil society can make toward the cultivation of civic virtue is to render a generation receptive to a liberal education, should any of its members be fortunate enough to come across an opportunity for one.

This applies also to what can be hoped for from a genuinely liberal education. The amount we can change, the degree to which we can push society in the right direction, is pitifully small. Yet the urgency of a problem does not render a solution undertaken with a sense of urgency more likely to succeed.

The likelihood of success is so small that there can be no duty to make real sacrifices to bring it about. Love of country demands that one sacrifice for it, but sacrifices made in vain are not sacrifices for anything. There is every indication that it will be insufficient, but that does not mean that it cannot be done. And this requirement is, we must candidly acknowledge, in tension with the student it aims to liberate. Human beings are made for freedom; they are made to seek, find, and communicate the truth about themselves and the world.

But the needs of their natures are plainly more than this. One need not be a Marxist to see the half-truth in his remark, or its implications for liberal education. It asks for purity of will, inviting students to undertake their studies for personal cultivation, not professional advancement.

But today it has exchanged this goal for others, promoting political self-expression rather than virtuous self-governance. Chancellor Dirks maintained that education serves society by enlarging the boundaries of our tolerance and expanding the range of our sympathies. And are not such arts the mark of true liberality? They are not, and liberal education must place itself in healthy opposition to them. Liberal education shares one goal with other forms of education: It prepares students for group membership.

Whether a family, guild, or nation, every community shares a common language, history, and set of skills, and it is a primary purpose of education to initiate newcomers into them. In this respect, liberal education is no different from the vocational training to which it was classically contrasted. Both train students to take up a particular role in a larger way of life.

Liberal education also fosters a special social role, however, and does so in a unique way.

Can Liberal Education Survive Liberal Democracy? - The New Atlantis

Although it bears similarities with some non-Western traditions of learning, it is the traditional means by which Western culture has promoted membership in its intellectual community. Saying so now seems quaint or worse, but for much of our history it was thought self-evident.

The Future of Freedom - Fareed Zakaria

For Greeks, Romans, and Christians, the liberal arts were the path to admission into the higher intellectual life of Western civilization. To be received into it was to play a part in sustaining its traditions of self-examination and contemplative reflection.

Many conservative defenses of liberal education take their stand here, but mistakenly go no further. They argue that liberal education transmits our shared intellectual and artistic heritage — the modes of thought, imagination, and expression that our culture, through long experience and debate, has used to reflect upon the basic questions of human existence.

There is much to commend in this view. As philosopher Sidney Hook argued, liberal education "provide[s] all students with the legacy of their culture Liberal education does not promote membership in a group grounded in a shared history, race, or nationality. Rather, it envisions a different kind of community: This is a "liberal" community in that it is not bound together by authority or custom, but by a commitment to civil conversation.

It defends a cultural inheritance not simply because it is ours, but because it advances this conversation. Liberal education fosters a community that reflects, continually, on the purpose and meaning of human life. What is a human being? What is truth, and how can it be known and communicated?

What is the proper relation between an individual and his community? What makes art or language beautiful? On such questions, the liberal arts sustain a community whose goal is a true understanding of its own humanity and such questions are intelligible only on the assumption that there is a truth to be known. Its conversation includes both the living and the dead. A student enters it only by first listening to its greatest participants, who have framed the most important questions and offered the most compelling answers.

This community aspires to influence, as widely as possible, the world outside it. Liberal education promotes, in a word, a humane culture. Its social aspiration is to develop what the Catholic philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre calls an "educated public. It is animated by a general admiration for our highest cultural achievements and an ability to listen to the public conversation. It is also a rational public: Although it welcomes disagreement, it upholds standards of rationality and truth that allow for meaningful debate to exist at all.

Yet liberal education never fully shapes any society, and for obvious reasons: People are pressed by needs and distracted by concerns that liberal education cannot address. And even at its most influential moments in our history — say, for the students and readers of mid-century America — it has never reached more than a small number of people. Samuel Taylor Coleridge called them a "clerisy," and T.

Eliot called them a "class. Both saw liberal learning as the preserve of a minority serving a society that, though benefiting from this liberal minority's pursuits, rarely shared in them.

In times of political repression, this class can even form what the Czech dissident Vaclav Benda called a "parallel polis," a community of free thought existing apart from broad political support. Although it is more needed than ever, this social responsibility of liberal education is almost unintelligible today.

The sobering reality is that liberal education prepares students for a social role that almost no longer exists, even at its privileged periphery. No respectable college administrator would publicly admit it, but their professional actions show they know it: There simply is no cultural role for which liberal education is the necessary preparation. Our society is not uneducated, nor is it lacking an intellectual elite.

Rather, participation in our "educated public" no longer presumes or requires a liberal education, however demanding its other requirements, which are now largely technocratic. Today's public conversations revolve around the social sciences, brain science, evolutionary theory, and other ways of interpreting the human condition as grounded in reductive processes. How and why this happened is difficult to explain, though plain to see. In the last century, liberal education has experienced a complete reversal in its social status.

Liberalism and Liberal Education

It changed from being the revered ground of our cultural consensus to a potent threat to it. Max Weber's lectures on education offer a powerful early account of the motivations behind this academic revolution. Weber was no enemy of high Western culture.

He appreciated, deeply, the role it played in forming the unique character of Western rationality. But he alleged that because the humanities study questions of value — questions that admit of irreconcilably different answers — they foment divisive attitudes. They could incite "frenzy" in students, he charged, leading them to ask, "Which of the warring gods should we serve?

Democracy and Education in the United States

But his fears, if not his arguments, inform how our intellectual elite views its highest pursuits today. Liberal education's unembarrassed inquiries into human destiny and purpose are simply too serious, too potentially divisive, for a public consensus secured by technocratic avoidance of them.

Liberal philosopher John Rawls argued that liberal societies must exclude "comprehensive doctrines" from public debate, since they invite deep disagreements. When I say that American education has failed to achieve liberal ends by liberal means—and is still moving in the wrong direction—I appeal for support to the obvious facts with which we are all acquainted. Scientific measurements of the educational product of the schools of New York and Pennsylvania show not merely a failure to master the ordinary subject matters of instruction but, what is more dismal, the inadequacy of the schools with respect to the basic operations of critical intelligence as these occur in reading and writing.

Not only are distressingly large numbers of high school graduates unable to read and write to that minimum degree which must be possessed by free minds participating in a democratic community, but the evidence further shows that after graduation they have neither appetite nor capacity for reading anything better than the local newspaper or mediocre fiction. Some of these many high school graduates have terminated their schooling.

For them we can have little hope. School has given them neither the equipment nor the impulse to continue their education out of school. Their intelligence, of whatever degree, has been so untrained and so uncultivated, that they will be ready to follow the first demagogue who seeks to beguile them. If, as Thomas Hobbes observes, a democracy tends to degenerate into an oligarchy of orators, and even sometimes, as we have recently seen abroad, into the tyranny of the leading orator of the land, then education in this country, as judged by its high school products, is inimical to democracy.

Nor is the remedy the one proposed by the spokesmen of the John Dewey Society, who would inoculate and indoctrinate the students with democratic notions and practices in the school. That is demagogic rather than democratic education.

The person who has not learned to think critically, who has not come to respect reason as the only arbiter of truth in human generalizations, who has not been lifted out of the blind alleys of local and contemporary jargons and shibboleths, will not be saved by the orator of the classroom from later succumbing to the orator of the platform and the press.

Of course, we must remember that some high school graduates go to college, and among these, perhaps, are a few who have profited from their schooling.

the relationship between liberal education freedom and democracy

But we can derive little consolation from this thought because here, too, the facts prevent us. Though they are even more obliged by their historic mission to perform the work of liberal education, the liberal arts colleges fail on their level as badly, if not worse, than the high schools do on theirs. Our colleges produce undisciplined and hence unliberated minds, minds which are cultivated only by a superficial literacy.

Almost worse is that they produce skeptics about reason and knowledge, relativists about morals, sophists in political matters, in short, liberals in that worst sense of the word in which liberalism is suicidal because it is unable to give a rational defense of its sentimental protestations without contradicting itself.

Since liberals of this sort are comfortable in the presence of contradiction, it will not be implausible if I add that these same college graduates who are skeptics and sophists are also deeply indoctrinated with the local prejudices of their teachers, especially the scientists, natural and social, who dominate the college curriculum.

The college graduate is neither a liberal artist nor a liberated mind. When college has affected him most "spiritually," it has made him into a "liberal," by which I mean that monomania for freedom in which the mind abhors discipline and does not acknowledge the authority of reason. I am, of course, using the words "liberal" and "liberalism" in a dyslogistic sense.

These words can be used as terms of the highest praise, and then it would be true to say that a liberal education serves democracy by making men liberal.

The distinction here between the contrary senses of "liberal" and "liberalism" turns upon a true and a false conception of the nature and place of liberty in human life. The liberalism I have been attacking as false is false because it misconceives the role and extent of liberty in human affairs. It is this false liberalism which is as much a part of our eighteenth-century heritage as the good democratic institutions which we have preserved and developed.

The founding fathers did not speak a pure political truth, a truth unmixed with error; they were inspired by Locke and Voltaire and Rousseaubut they were also misled by them. The tradition of American democracy is a great blessing in the modern world, but is not without its blemishes, chief among which is the false liberalism that was present at the beginning and has more recently been augmented by positivism, the skepticism, the anti-rationalism, which are so many noxious weeds that seem to attend the flowering of science in a culture.

There is no intrinsic and necessary connection between the principles of democracy and this false liberalism; on the contrary, democracy will become mature only through the cure of this infantile disorder. The fact remains, however, that at the present moment we are not only a democratic people but one which has not yet rectified its liberalism.

The false liberalism of which I speak is nowhere more dominant than among our professional educators, our teachers colleges, and our college faculties. The vicious circle of reciprocal causality is nowhere more manifest than in our educational system.

Our educators are themselves the products of our schools and colleges and their liberalism signifies the extent to which our institutions have failed to accomplish liberal education. And their liberalism, on the other hand, is of paramount importance in sustaining the present deplorable state of affairs, in some cases going even further in the wrong direction, in others acting to oppose reforms which seek to institute a truly liberal education.

I do not mean to say that false liberalism, on the part of our educators or the public generally, is the only cause of what is wrong with American education today; but it is certainly among the principal causes.

I have singled it out for discussion because we are here considering the relation of general education to the state. My point is that although American education can be good because it exists in a democratic country and need not, therefore, be misused, it is at present bad.

It is bad largely with respect to the means we employ and the obliqueness of the way in which we direct them to the right end. This we do because of a false liberalism, historically associated with our democratic principles, and rampant today in the texture of our national life. Let me illustrate this by citing again the authors of Democracy and the Curriculum. They want freedom to such an extent that they wish to be rid of a curriculum as a prescribed course of study.

Because it is prescribed, because it expresses the authority of teachers imposed upon students, because it makes teacher and student unequal, it is regarded as undemocratic—as if democracy did not depend, as does every good social order, on leaders and followers, rulers with authority and subjects, not submissive, but well ruled. Throughout their writings they confuse authority, which is nothing more than the voice of reason, with autocracy, which is the violent imposition of a will by force; they confuse discipline with regimentation; they convert the equality of human beings as persons, sharing in a common nature and a common end, into an equality of individuals, despite the differences in their capacities and their merits.

This is not the liberality and equality which constitute democracy as the social order in which popular sovereignty is most fully realized because, through the discipline of reason, men have the authority to govern themselves and use the freedom of self-government. This is the romantic libertinism and egalitarianism of Rousseau. I am willing to admit that I have chosen an extreme example in using this book to make my case; maybe the rank and file of American educators would not accept so preposterous a position.

Yet false liberalism is generally prevalent among them, though perhaps not so blatantly, and the falsity is manifested by the same confusions.

As President Barr of St. John's College recently said: The day's news suggests that liberal democracies are paralyzed. If they are, it is because we twentieth-century liberals have missed the point of our faith. We have slithered into the belief that liberty meant being left alone, and nothing else. We have come to assume that liberalism is the absence of authority because we can no longer distinguish between authority and tyranny.

We have forgotten that the mind that denies the authority of reason falls under the tyranny of caprice. We have forgotten that he who will not answer to the rudder must answer to the rock. We have therefore allowed totalitarian dictators to take out a copyright on words like authority and discipline, although their tyranny is a caricature of authority and their terrorism is a caricature of discipline.

It is appropriate, indeed, that these words should be spoken by the president of St. John's, because it is the only college in the country which is making a proportionate effort to adapt and devise means that may succeed in achieving the ends of liberal education. The venture is still too new to be judged by its products, but in aim and spirit it has already overcome false liberalism.

Liberty is prized at St. John's, but with such discrimination and moderation that authority and discipline are not sacrificed.

The elective system has been entirely abolished. The students become free men at St. John's through liberal disciplines, not through the repeated exercise of unprincipled choices. This is not the place, nor is there time, to give an adequate analysis of the philosophical errors which underlie false liberalism. But I would like to point out a few of its misleading notions.