Friday, February 15, 2013

William Cronon on the Traits of a Liberally Educated Person

William Cronon
Mark Cheathem at Jacksonian America blog has reminded me of Willian Cronon's essay "Only Connect: The Goals of a Liberal Education."  I have read and taught this piece several times and I don't know of a better short treatment of the virtues of liberal learning.  Everyone should read it.  

Cheathem summarized and condensed Cronon's traits of a liberally educated person.  Here they are:
  1. Liberally educated people listen and hear. They pay close attention to others and show empathy.
  2. Liberally educated people read and understand. They possess the ability to read not only the written word but also the visual world that surrounds them.
  3. Liberally educated people can converse with anyone. They are able to speak on many topics and are interested in listening as well.
  4. Liberally educated people can write clearly, persuasively, and movingly. They are able to express themselves in writing,  not just in the technical sense of correct grammar and syntax but in conveying their inner selves.
  5. Liberally educated people can solve problems of various kinds. They can deconstruct complicated problems and reconstruct them into something meaningful.
  6. Liberally educated people respect rigor as a way of seeking truth. They value wisdom and seek to combine knowledge and values.
  7. Liberally educated people are humble, tolerant, and self-critical. They recognize and value different perspectives.
  8. Liberally educated people accomplish something with their lives. They see a higher purpose in their time on earth and do something to improve it before they die.
  9. Liberally educated people understand the power of community. They acknowledge that individuals cannot operate outside of communities and that communities do not exist without individuals. Cronon adds later in his essay, “Education for human freedom [i.e., individualism] is also education for human community” (5).
  10. Liberally educated people connect. As Cronon puts it, a liberal education “means being able to see connections that allow one to make sense of the world and act within it in creative ways. . . . [It] is about gaining the power and the wisdom, the generosity and the freedom to connect.” (3-5).