Monday, September 17, 2007

Goals of a 'Humane Education'

The Boston Globe ran a piece this weekend by a Yale law professor that argues that Universities have lost their way because they have lost sight of the big picture--the question of the meaning of life.

I'll quote my favorite part. Here he is defining what he calls the 'shared conception of a humane education:'

The first is that there is more than one good answer to the question of what living is for. A second is that the number of such answers is limited, making it possible to study them in an organized way. A third is that the answers are irreconcilably different, necessitating a choice among them. A fourth is that the best way to explore these answers is to study the great works of philosophy, literature, and art in which they are presented with lasting beauty and strength. And a fifth is that their study should introduce students to the great conversation in which these works are engaged - Augustine warily admiring Plato, Hobbes reworking Aristotle, Paine condemning Burke, Eliot recalling Dante, recalling Virgil, recalling Homer - and help students find their own authentic voice as participants in the conversation.

This is again a very traditionalist set of examples, but the conversation to which he is referring extends to a much broader list of thinkers.

I think that the discussion about a liberal education is one of the most important that we can have as a campus community. Can it become the vehicle for recovering the quality and reputation of our own institution?

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