January 25, 2005

Embracing Liberalism

I found a link to this speech by William J. Cronon on the goals of a liberal education. Part of it is excerpted here, but all 10 of his points on what it means to have a liberal outlook are worth chewing on:

...Education for human freedom also means education for human community. The two cannot exist without each other. Every one of the ten qualities I have just described is a craft or skill or way of being in the world that frees us to act with greater knowledge, greater power. But each of these ten qualities also makes us ever more aware of the connections we have with other people and with the rest of the planet. So they remind us of the obligations we have to use our knowledge and our power responsibly, generously, caringly.

If I’m right that all of these qualities are finally about connecting, then we need to confront one last paradox about liberal education. In the act of making us free, it also binds us to the communities that gave us our freedom in the first place. It makes us responsible to those communities in a way that limits our freedom. In the end, it turns out that liberty is not about thinking or saying or doing whatever we want. It is about exercising our freedom in such a way as to make the world a better place, not just for ourselves, but for everyone and everything around us.

So we remember those two words of E.M. Forster’s, "Only connect." I’ve said that they are as good an answer as any I know to what it means to be a liberally educated person. But they are also as good a description as any I know for the most powerful and generous form of human connection that we call love. The love I mean here is not romantic or passionate love, but the love that lies at the heart of all the great human religious traditions. Liberal education nurtures human freedom in the service of human community, which is to say that, in the end, it nurtures and celebrates love. Whether we speak of our schools or our universities or ourselves, whether we speak of education or the fight against HIV/AIDS, I hope we will hold fast to this as our constant practice in the full depth of its richness and many meanings. I hope we will nurture and celebrate love. I hope we will "only connect."

That's the spirit.

Posted by natasha at January 25, 2005 12:28 AM | Communications | Technorati links |

kstreetfriend comment:

According to the New York Times: Recently, a number of for-profit colleges have faced inquiries, lawsuits and other actions calling into question the way they inflate enrollment to mislead/increase the value of their parent company’s stock.

In the last year, the Career Education Corporation of Hoffman Estates, Ill., has faced lawsuits, from shareholders and students, contending that, among other things, its colleges have inflated enrollment numbers. The company acknowledged that it was under investigation by the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

In February 2004, F.B.I. agents raided 10 campuses run by ITT Educational Services of Carmel, Ind., looking for similar problems.

Kaplan is wholly own by the Washington Post Company. I provided the S.E.C., Department of Education, and federal courts information that appears to prove Kaplan inflated the Concord School of Law enrollment, telling investors that the “flagship” of its higher education division has as many as 600 to 1000 or more students.

Why didn’t the Justice Department and S.E.C. included Kaplan with their investigation?

Posted by first_real_online_law_

Posted by: first_real_online_law_student@yahoo.com at January 25, 2005 02:14 AM

Thanks for the link. God it's depressing to go back to churning out new little engineers after reading that.

Posted by: sean at January 25, 2005 08:24 AM

Human community = communism.
Who gets to decide if our use of our freedoms is making the world a better place?
And how do we get from "love that nurtutures human freedom in the service of the human community" to the "fight against HIV/AIDS?
Natasha, you said that is the spirit?
No one even knows what Cronon said - except he is a communist.
If you liberals would speak in plain English, even more Americans would laugh in your faces and walk away, then do already.

Posted by: lycfyg at January 25, 2005 03:42 PM

We must be moving up in the world, got our own conservatroll. Do you guys get to draw out of a hat, or do they assign you?

lycfyg, if you're so apalled by people talking about fostering a sense of community and encouraging a spirit of love towards humanity, then I hope you haven't had to be exposed to the communist tripe of that original pinko, Jesus. You know, the funny Jewish guy with the entourage, went around saying that as you did to the least fortunate, you... oh forget it. Go live in a cave in the wilderness and hunt your own dinner for pity's sake. Civilization is lost on a barbarian like yourself.

Posted by: natasha at January 25, 2005 08:06 PM

Bravo, Natasha!

lycfyg, if "Human community = communism," I guess you just called me a communist. And furthermore, since community is so repugnant to you, I expect you will not drive on the roads, use any medecine, speak any language, or enjoy any art.

Posted by: Patrick at January 26, 2005 04:32 AM