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The Idea of Liberal Education in Modern Britain and Its Classical Sources

Author: ShenWenQin
Tutor: ChenHongJie
School: Beijing University
Course: Higher Education
Keywords: Liberal Education Gentleman’education general education liberating education Conceptual History Henry Newman
Type: PhD thesis
Year: 2008
Downloads: 1720
Quote: 4
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This present dissertation purports to research the conceptual history and conceptual transformation of“Liberal Education”. The concept of“liberal arts”or“liberal education”dated back to Plato, Aristotle and Cicero. From that time on, these two terms are the most popular educational concepts in the Western Education. The idea of“Liberal education”influences western curriculum model, educational institutions thoroughly.Since 1950s, Western scholars studied the idea of liberal education from the dimensions of intellectual history, philosophy of education and history of education. Nevertheless, these studies have two basic deficiencies: First, they didn’t investigate the connotation and scope of“liberal arts”and“liberal education”in different times; secondly, they did not do a research mainly based on the texts of“liberal education”.There is no through research into to concept of“liberal education”in China, and the concept of“liberal education”remains in confusion which reflects in translation and discussions.Based on a lot of original educational texts, dictionaries, essays, this paper investigates the connotation and scope of“liberal arts”and“liberal education”in different times.The first Chapter studies the concept of“eleutheros / eleutherios”and“eleutherion epistemon”in Aristotle’s Works.The second chapter studies the concept of“artes liberales”and its family concepts in Cicero and Seneca.The third chapter studies the concept of“seven liberal arts”in the Middle Ages.The fourth chapter talks about three versions of“Liberal education”in eighteenth century Britain: George Turnbull, Joseph Priestley and Vicesimus Knox.The Fifth chapter gives a conceptual history of Henry Newman’s concept of“Liberal education”. The paper analyzes these four core concepts of Newman’s version of“liberal education”: Liberal Knowledge, Gentleman, Cultivation of Intellect, and Education of Heart.The last chapter traces the semantic change of“liberal arts”and“liberal education”in twentieth America.Basic Conclusion:1. The essence of the concept of“liberal education”is“the education of free man”or“the education of gentleman”. Liberal arts mean,“The arts befit free men or gentlemen”. The idea of“liberal education”always emphasizes“learned”and“general”, so this term can be translated into“博雅教育”which means“learned and genteel education”.2. The idea of liberal education dates back to Aristotle’s“eleutherion epistemon”and Cicero’s artes liberales, in the middle ages, this idea embodied as“seven liberal arts”. From seventeenth century on, the concept of“artes liberals”married with the idea of“gentleman”and“gentleman-scholar”, and give birth to the modern idea of“liberal education”in eighteenth and nineteenth century Britain which both emphasized“general”and“genteel”, but the semantic focus of“liberal education”was more and more transformed from“genteel”to“general”.3. The changes of concept imply the educational innovation. The Emergence of the concept of“polite education”and“polite learning”testify the influence of“politeness”on the idea of liberal education. The popularity of“general education”in nineteenth century reflects the conflict of general education and professional education. In twentieth century, liberal education lose it’s connect with“gentleman”, it is changed into a neutral term which means“general education”or“liberating education”.

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