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This chapter proposes an alternative to contemporary liberal education, by specifying a form of liberal arts education that is fit for the 21st century. We begin with the classical period to ascertain what the founders of “liberal arts education” meant by the term. The classical authors distinguish two types of arts or main subjects of study. They hold that the…

The decline of the humanities in American higher education – literature, history, philosophy, classical studies, linguistics, and foreign languages – is most recently evident in the drop in enrollments from 17.2% of degrees in 1967 to 6.5% in 2013.[1] Further proof of this decline is the decreasing number of academic positions available in these disciplines. For instance, in the 2013-14…

Why The Humanities Matter Today: In Defense of Liberal Education. Lee Trepanier, ed. Lanham: Lexington Books, 2017.
 
This book promises to tell the reader why the humanities matter today and moreover why a new approach to the defense of the humanities is needed. Lee Trepanier, editor and author of both the Introduction and the final chapter, includes political science within the…

In today’s world, when the topic of the defects of university teaching and curricula comes up, the most well-known alternative put forward is the “great books programs.” I take it for granted that we read what are rightly called “great books”—Thucydides, Plato, Aristotle, the Greek tragedians, Cicero, Marcus Aurelius, the Bible, St. Augustine, some Church fathers, St. Thomas, Shakespeare, and into…

What Villanova should be famous for is its well-funded and brilliantly staffed ”great books” gen-ed alternative program and a real surge in “great books” humanities majors. The program really does has a Christian/Augustinian focus without in any way neglecting either classical or modern authors.
Now, according to Tocqueville, the point of higher education today is to be a countercultural corrective to…

Plenty of liberals—and not just liberal professors—think there is a conservative conspiracy to use online education and MOOCs, to destroy genuinely higher education in this country. I see no organized conspiracy, and much of the liberal paranoia amounts to whining about the results of legitimate political defeats. Nonetheless, there is something to the thought that hostility to higher education as it…

One reason I can’t buy the claim that conservative intellectual has become an oxymoron is that on our campuses it’s so often the conservatives who defend “liberal education.” I’m going to sketch out the understanding of “liberal education” or “general education” shared by me and many of my fellow professorial conservatives (a tiny and shrinking minority oppressed from all sides…

What are the ends of education? We mean, of course, the ends for us, for us democratic Americans.
So we begin with the best book ever written on democracy and the best book ever written on America—Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America.
America, Tocqueville noticed, is an overwhelmingly middle-class country. To be middle class, of course, is to be stuck in the…

So here’s my contribution to a symposium on “originalism” as the mode of interpreting the Constitution that facilitates the maximization of the libertarian value of “negative liberty.” Everyone else in the symposium operates on a higher pay grade than I do when it comes to really knowing all about the controversies in the field of constitutional law right now. There’s…

Perhaps the definition for freedom most commonly held in the West is some variation of the liberal ideal: “the ability to do what you want, so long as you do not encroach upon what belongs to another.”  This definition, however, leaves us with a difficulty: what about those circumstances when two conflicting interests clash?  Is it always possible to judge…