Liberal Education: The Foundation and Preservation of a Free Society

“Liberal education and the free society have always been intimately connected. A liberal education, an education which prepares one for freedom, gives rise to a society of individuals who must then exercise their freedom well. St. Augustine argued that freedom was truly freedom to live rightly; a liberal education is one which prepares an individual to exercise wisdom in a series of choices which effect not only himself but his society at large. Our American society is an outgrowth of a broader culture, one which springs from “a fairly uniform tradition of wonderful richness coming from Greece, Rome, and Judea. In our antecedents are the gifts of the Hebrews and later the Christians for a spiritual life and intensity which have resulted in our belief in the reality of the inner man.”[1] Transferring an awareness of our culture and the roots of our specific society is a key task of liberal education.

Such an education becomes even more significant when set in the context of twenty-first century America. In an increasingly technologically linked age with a nearly universal franchise, the burden of freedom is both tenuous and precious. A democracy could always hand its liberties to a tyrant, either out of fear or through deception; these realities make the ability to recognize threats to the nature of the democracy vital for its continuing health. The present danger to the United States as a free society is more subtle; as an increasingly wealthy technological superpower, the temptation exists to embrace Marx’ identification of humanity as nothing but homo economicus.”

The rest of this essay may be found on The Imaginative Conservative.