The Death of Liberal Education
Ask the question, “what is Liberal education?” to students attending the university today, and one will find very few students who could answer this question with any sort of accuracy. One will hear such things as, “a Liberal education is a well rounded education,” or, “I don’t really know, I’m going to school to have a career.” This, without a doubt, is a serious situation for our culture and our country. We have descended so far down the path of narrow, narcissistic, specialization, that the meaning and purpose of Liberal education itself has become lost in the fog of the information age.
The purpose of a true Liberal education, to quote Strauss would be to “provide a ladder by which we try to ascend from mass democracy to democracy as originally meant.” Another way of putting “mass democracy” would be to say pop culture. To further quote Strauss, “it demands from us the complete break with the noise, the rush, the thoughtlessness, the cheapness of the Vanity Fair of the intellectuals as well as of their enemies. It demands from us the boldness implied in the resolve to regard the accepted views as mere opinions, or to regard the average opinions as extreme opinions which are at least as likely to be wrong as the most strange or the least popular opinions. Liberal education is liberation from vulgarity. The Greeks had a beautiful word for vulgarity; they called it apeirokalia, lack of experience in things beautiful. Liberal education supplies us with experience in things beautiful.”
Today’s Liberal education works to achieve the direct opposite of this. Today’s Liberal education seeks to create mass democracy by placing diversity above excellence. Today’s Liberalism seeks to create the city of pigs that others have endlessly labored to rise above.
Though not often spoken, democracy has an inherent problem. If the masses that elect representatives are ignorant, decline and destruction soon follow. Liberal education provides the antidote to this potential problem. If the general population is composed of a significant number of people who have cultivated their minds, they will elect as representatives cultivated individuals. If the general population is composed of uneducated and illiterate people, then they will elect postmodern liberals to be their representatives. Since liberalism, in its postmodern condition, is a mental disorder, these representatives will bring about the collapse of the society.
A quote from the introduction to the great books by Encyclopedia Britannica written in 1954;
“We believe that the reduction of the citizen to an object of propaganda, private and public, is one of the greatest dangers to democracy. A prevalent notion is that the great mass of the people cannot understand and cannot form an independent judgment upon the matter; they cannot be educated, in the sense of developing their intellectual powers, but they can be bamboozled. The reiteration of slogans, the distortion of the news, the great storm of propaganda that beats upon the citizen twenty-four hours a day all his life long mean either that democracy must fall a prey to the loudest and most persistent propagandists or that the people must save themselves by strengthening their minds so that they can appraise the issues for themselves.” (p. xiii)
FOX News and the Tea Party both come to mind with all their flag waving and slogan chanting. Barak Obama comes to mind as well. He looks good, speaks well, therefore he’s our man. Whether he is qualified for the job is irrelevant. With the dawn of cable TV and the internet, the drums have grown to a deafening volume since 1954. What can a person do about this?
How to Receive a Liberal Education
If the purpose of a Liberal education is to create a mass aristocracy, how is this achieved? How does someone cultivate their mind and soul? I agree with Strauss when he says that one should continually have intercourse with the greatest minds. This poses a problem because few, if any, teachers could be considered great minds. I also agree with Straus when he points out that one is extremely lucky if only one great mind is alive in one’s time. Sure, we have many professors that work in philosophy departments, but are they truly lovers of philosophy? As well, we have no shortage of professors working in history departments, but are they truly historians? No, by and large, as in all professions, greatness is a rarity.
It is for this reason one must look to the great books, written by the truly great minds, who have left us with their wisdom through their writing. Until recent times, one was not considered to be educated until he was well acquainted with the masterpieces of Western man. Oh how far we have strayed from this! We have intentionally silenced all those voices that call from the past, and in silencing these voices, we have also silenced all the wisdom that could be used to help man in the present.
The Great Books of the Western World can be purchased through the Encyclopedia Britannica. If you are seeking more than a job, if you want to cultivate your mind, I highly recommend getting a set of these books. I also recommend that you spend the rest of your life reading them. Read them with your children as early as eight years old. By the time they hit the university, they will be far more educated than the average professor, and therefore will not succumb to the insanity that is taught there. No matter what they choose to do, they will be more successful because of this. The answer to the problems created by Postmodern Liberalism, is Classical Liberalism. This is the true meaning of Liberalism, where one cultivates their mind rather than corrupting it.
From all this, we can conclude that today’s institutions of higher learning are far more technical schools, designed to provide someone with a job in one field of specialization or another, rather than places where one is encouraged to cultivate those things that bring out the best within human nature. The goal of producing mass aristocracy has been replaced with propagating mass democracy, a city of pigs where diversity is valued over excellence, pathological equality through affirmative action over academic excellence through personal achievement and accountability. Today’s universities are places of indoctrination into a shallow worldview, where history and philosophy have been reduced to inconveniences that stand in the way of progress. One will have a hard time receiving a true Liberal education at today’s universities.
Chuck Jines is an internationally published independent documentary photographer and photojournalist.
Chuck's passions center around the controversial questions concerning the nature of reality, the human mind, society, and current events. He covers news events, social events, and loves to share his social documentary photography of people, places, and things.
Chuck is also an Amazon author and the publisher of the magazine, Gravis.
Chuck’s work has been published by prominent news publications such as the BBC, The Daily Mail, The Guardian (2), New York Mag, and the fine-art magazine, Corridor Elephant.
Chuck's video work has been used by ABC News/Rock'n Robin Productions special on Hurricane Katrina. Chuck has also provided fixing services for CNN's "This Is Life" with Lisa Ling (Season 3 Episode 3, The Black and White of Heroin), and has been invited to display his work at the Chicago History Museum.
As well, Chuck has given presentations of his work at Chicago State University, and at DePaul University College of Communication. Chuck's work on heroin has also been exhibited at the Gallery 7 in Joliet Il..