Liberal Education in Crisis

  • Article
  • 29 pages
  • Level: high school and above

A criticism and historical overview of the impact of modern science and the rise of the research university on the liberal arts tradition, by David D. Arndt, published in Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture in 2016. Arndt writes:

Liberal education was once understood as a spiritual discipline devoted to the search for wisdom: “There is only one really liberal study. . . . It is the study of wisdom.” This is why even today doctorates in the liberal arts are called doctors of philosophy. But this understanding of liberal education was distorted and obscured with the emergence of the modern sciences, when liberal arts colleges were cast into the mold of the research university and reinterpreted in light of its underlying assumptions. This distortion was not affected by the sciences themselves, but by scientism—the uncritical belief that scientific truths are the only genuine form of truth. Catholic colleges matter today because they have retrieved and reinvented the classic ideals of liberal education. But to serve as a model to other colleges they have to offer a cogent critique of the model of education embodied by the modern research university, and they have to elucidate the rationale underlying their own distinctive programs and pedagogies. To do this they have to “forge new paths” of thought, and take the lead in rethinking the nature of academic discipline, the self, language, tradition, and truth.

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