In this blog, I intend to explore the question: "What kind of education makes it possible to live well as a free human being?"
This isn't a new question, rather, it is the essence of liberal education going back to ancient times. The now much-abused word "liberal" is from the Latin word for "free," liber. In the ancient Roman republic, men were concerned about what a free citizen needed to know in order to function well.
Today, I'm concerned, very concerned, about what our young people know and don't know, and the consequences for liberty. What is their conception of freedom? If you want a daunting taste of what they don't know, take a look at this report from the Association of Trustees and Alumni
about college students.
However, I'm equally, if not more, concerned about how they hold and use their ideas. Do they know how to investigate and arrive at their judgments first-hand?
What are the consequences of what they know and how they know it? Do they want to be free to follow their own judgment and self-reliantly accept the joys and risks of life, or do they prefer the safety of the collective care of others?
Higher education is my focus, but to understand what happens at the college level, we have to understand what goes before.
Babies and toddlers constantly look, listen, touch, smell, taste. They devote themselves to examining and exploring their environment. They're balls of fire when it comes to learning, "let me do it myself" their clarion call.
Yet, by the time children are 8 or 9, how many are eager to go to school? Read books? Learn history? Math? Do their homework?
If not, why not? What's changed?
Is there a way to get back that fire?