Liberal Education&Citizenship

Primary Number: X

ConStudies Number: CNST 30702

ConStudies CRN: 32086

Primary CRN: X

Instructor: Foster, Luke (LFOSTER2)

Day/Time: MW 12:30pm-1:45pm


Location: X

This class aims to understand liberal education—the ancient idea that learning is valuable for its own sake—and its relation to the human capacity to live freely. Can the pursuit of the truth make us better citizens, improve our character, or perhaps even save our souls? Or does civic piety only trap us deeper in the Cave? As students and teachers of both the liberal arts and politics, these are existential questions. Once liberal education was thought the characteristic marker of the leisured, ruling class, making it aristocratic, not democratic. To better understand whether liberal education offers something that the American democratic republic needs, this class traces its history: developing from Plato and Aristotle to the medieval university and the Renaissance humanists, it undergoes a profound critique in the early modern period and finds an uneasy home in the modern Western research university. While this model has come under repeated attack, it remains prestigious and envied across the world. Along the way, we will ask whether the university is necessarily secular or religious and consider Notre Dame’s Catholic mission. In the context of today’s opposition between populists and elitists, can elite graduates serve the common good?