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liberal education

An essay written by John von Heyking, entitled “Top 5 Books on Liberal Education Published in the Last 35 years” is a good read and moves one to think about the texts that he names.

But are there any others? I have read and am familiar with 4 of the 5 named books: I am looking forward to reading is Everyone a Teacher by Mark Schwen.

There are two authors that I would like to recommend as an addition to the five listed by von Heyking: Marion Montgomery and Stratford Caldecott. Marion Montgomery can be considered the last of the 20th century Southern Agrarian movement who has written fiction, poetry, philosophical tracts, as well as literary and cultural criticism. He has been known as a Hillbilly Thomist in Southern literary circles and his most recent published work is entitled Hillbilly Thomist. The work that I recommend of Montgomery’s is The Truth of Things: Liberal Arts and the Recovery of Reality. Professor Montgomery traces the turmoil and chaos of today’s education beyond where Allan Bloom proposed, that of Rousseau, the Enlightenment thinkers and Nietzsche, but goes further back to the fourteenth century. If we have any hope of properly renewing education, we should seek the proper roots of the fall and Montgomery is a good guide for this examination.

liberal educationThe second scholar is Stratford Caldecott and his latest book, Beauty for Truth’s Sake: On the Re-enchantment of Education. I cannot recommend this book enough. After reading it, I passed a couple of copies to friends who teach at the University of St. Thomas, Houston, and before long one was reworking geometry and others led a couple of faculty symposiums over the text. In short, Caldecott reunites the purpose of education with the process of education and how it can be fulfilled in the liberal arts. I think both of these texts are worthy of adding.

Those who are familiar with the resurgence of the liberal arts since the late 20th century know there is more than one “little republic”, as von Heyking calls St. John’s College. I would heartily add the University of Dallas and Hillsdale College as additional republics that are prospering across America.

If you are interested in any of the books mentioned above or are interested in related books, they can be found at the The Imaginative Conservative BookstoreThe Imaginative Conservative applies the principle of appreciation to the discussion of culture and politics—we approach dialogue with magnanimity rather than with mere civility. Will you help us remain a refreshing oasis in the increasingly contentious arena of modern discourse? Please consider donating now.

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2 replies to this post
  1. John, I completely agree with your choice of Montgomery and I would also strongly recommend his book, "Liberal Arts and Community: The Feeding of the Larger Body." Another book I often go to is "Norms and Nobility," by David Hicks. Written for secondary school educators, it is a good read for anyone interested in education at all levels and he includes a nice outline of a curriculum. For context, I really enjoyed Carl Richard's "The Golden Age of the Classics in America: Greece, Rome, and the Antebellum United States."

    Although not published within the last 35 years, Josef Pieper's, "Leisure: The Basis of Culture," should be required reading for all teachers. Education today is run by so many bottom-line thinkers, bureaucrats, and sophists, Pieper reminds us of what is truly important in life and education. Last – but not least – I highly recomment the writings of John Taylor Gatto. He is a little bit out there, but raises many issues for serious thought. His latest book is "Weapons of Mass Instruction: A Schoolteacher's Journey Through the Dark World of Compulsory Schooling." His thesis is not that our schools are failing, but that they are succeeding in doing what they are supposed to be doing: creating unimaginative, standardized minds which consume life, rather than produce life. Thanks for the post. I hope your school year is off to a good one.

  2. Thanks for mentioning Hillsdale. Our older daughter went there and it’s a wonderful, wonderful school. They’re even offering many free online courses these days. One of the most important things you can do is support good schools of higher education. Too many of our children are lost to us in college. Besides the schools you name, Patrick Henry, Grove City and all the schools in the Concordia University network are worth mentioning.


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