Liberal education has been extensively critiqued in academic literature. While the issue is approached differently, one common theme is a deterioration of moral and ethical principles and lack of objective foundation resulting from the openness as the main direction taken by the primary education. The following paper compares two viewpoints on the matter and aligns them with a view of the good life.
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Similar Themes in Readings
Problem: Shortcomings of Liberal Education
The main issue brought up in both books is the adverse effects of relativism as a dominant direction in modern education. According to Nussbaum, the problem emerges due to the inability of the students to settle upon certain values and beliefs. Simply put, the constant need to question their preconceived notions and ideas gradually builds up the confusion that discourages students from critically assessing new ideas. Instead, they eventually start viewing the process as a forceful indoctrination with multicultural values, which creates an alienating effect. Bloom reaches points to a similar problem by suggesting that relativism, which is a necessary element of openness-oriented education, eliminate the possibility of attaining a point of view, which serves as an important social and cultural anchor. As a result, the priorities of citizens shift away from the need to seek for truth through improvement, and truth is starting to be perceived as irrelevant.
Goal: Creation of World Citizen
It should be noted that after sharing a common starting point, Bloom and Nussbaum outline different goals. From Bloom’s perspective, the main goal is the recognition of the significance of historical tradition which, according to him, is currently viewed as flawed and regressive by default. By extension, this would allow to deemphasize the pursuit of commercial objectives and reestablish the quest for truth, honor, and love as primary values. Nussbaum, while also appealing to the importance of tradition as a starting point, suggests another set of goals. Specifically, she argues that the goal of education is the creation of a world citizen – an individual who is resistant to dogmatic knowledge and political musings.
Means: Critical Thinking
Both authors also suggest critical inquiry as means for achieving the identified goal. Bloom defines this process as a pursuit of good through reason and argues that openness is suitable for the cause once it permits the awareness of ignorance and, by extension, promotes the desire of obtaining new knowledge. Nussbaum approaches the issue in a similar manner by appealing to the concept of life examination. In addition, she provides a list of disciplines that are supposed to promote compassion and emotion and, as a result, cultivate humanity.
Alignment of Good Life with Readings
The concept of good life offered in a handout is intended to introduce a distinction between a life lived in accordance with certain moral values and virtues (i.e. moral life) and the one that is enjoyable both for the individuals and their peers. As can be clearly seen from the previous section, both authors argue in favor of promoting the moral life by appealing to empathy and compassion and the existence of ultimate good. More specifically, it falls within the third conception of good life suggested by Mills, which evaluates life according to the contribution made to a vast human project – essentially, the world citizen described by Nussbaum.
Both readings point to the importance of an objectively universal foundation in education. The authors argue that the goal of education is to provide moral and ethical components necessary for contemporary population. In other words, critical thinking is the core component of means proposed by both authors.