A Liberal Education

This morning's reading: "Only Connect... The Goals of a Liberal Education", a short essay by historian William Cronon, originally published in The American Spectator in 1998. (Thank you, Asun!) Very interesting. In 1998 we were in the late stages of our most recent "culture wars". (Bloom's Closing of the American Mind is from 1987; E.D. Hirsch's Cultural Literacy was published in 1988.) Cronon, too, includes a list, but his is of a different sort; not what we should know, but rather what characteristics we should hope to find in a liberally educated person. Cronon summarizes these qualities when he observes the essential common denominator alluded to in his title: "Every one of the qualities I have described here –listening, reading, talking, writing, puzzle solving, truth seeking, seeing through other people's eyes, leading, working in a community– is finally about connecting. A liberal education is about gaining the power and the wisdom, the generosity and the freedom to connect." The article can be found here. (I highly recommend it!) Over a year ago, and unfamiliar with Cronon's perspective, I wrote a little bit about the importance of connectedness in this entry: connectedness. Additionally, Cronon's descriptions can serve as excellent benchmarks: how am I doing in my efforts to become educated? And of course, his reminder that education is not a state we achieve, but rather a manner, a philosophy, if you will, for dealing with our ultimate ignorance, is quite useful, lest we be tempted to forget. (Forgetting: Plato made the connection between memory and knowledge over two thousand years ago.)

On a beautiful spring afternoon it is not difficult to put aside concerns with knowledge. Well, on second thought, maybe it's not easy to put them aside, but we can at least proceed with a less troubled mind. And besides, it's a day of much relief and tranquility for Boston sports fans: Bruins win, Celtics win, Sox win... doubts, if not erased, at least postponed. Hmmm, maybe knowledge is erasure.

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