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No one can liberate another person by organizing his experience for him. But educators are in the business of disciplining the student in the truly human fashion which includes the organization of our experience in terms of dynamically interacting levels of generality and significance, the objectifying and clarifying of the field of feeling through thought, the broadening and deepening of that range of feeling through the imaginative projection of possibilities for feeling, as well as the steady consciousness of self that frees man from himself.
Just before the semester began I traveled to Beijing to deliver a lecture entitled "Why Liberal Education Matters" at the Institute for Humanistic Studies at Peking University. It was intersession there, and I was told that there might be a dozen faculty and graduate students in attendance.
Imagine my surprise when I entered a packed lecture hall.
It is because of this power that man has been called a rational animal.
And along side of this power any others which he may be said to possess are as nothing.
How would this message resonate in China, which has had an educational system that is even more test-driven and hyperspecialized?
I decided to take a historical approach, showing how our modern notions of liberal learning emerge from currents of thought from Thomas Jefferson to Richard Rorty.A liberal education is of value precisely because it is aimed at the development of those qualities of truly human activity which characterize man at his best.We may have to accept something less than this due to human frailty, but we need not be content to aim at anything less.This implies a much closer connection between thought and feeling than is ordinarily held.The particular power here is expressed in terms of the idea that the form of thought both expresses and limits at the same time.He was a slaveholder who tied education to liberation.He was a determined racist who wrote of the importance of allowing young people to fail as they found their enthusiasms – obviously, only some people.I structured the talk using the concepts: Liberate, Animate, Cooperate, Instigate/Innovate. With "Liberate," I talked about Jefferson’s ideas about education that led to the founding the University of Virginia.Jefferson was a man of the Enlightenment, and he thought that education would liberate us from what Kant had called "self-imposed immaturity." He was determined that students not have to choose their specific course of learning at the very start of their studies.Due to this you get clear elements not only expressed in their own right, but deriving part of their clarity and individuality because of their explicit exclusion from other elements of the same field.Second, the power of knowing was explained as due to the tension between levels of significance It was suggested that concepts are fields of meaning composed of mutually constituting levels or particularity and generality.