What Should It Mean to Have a Liberal Education in the 21st Century?

Jun. 01, 2009

Source: Curriculum Inquiry, Volume 39 Issue 3, Pages 465 – 486 (June 2009).

Liberal education has long been a fascination for scholars and educators. At one time largely the concern of colleges and universities, over the years it has become central to the discussion of general education in both schools and colleges. Yet it has not been without its critics even from within.
Carl Bereiter asked what it means to be an educated person in the 21st century and what contribution a liberal education can make in addressing this question. He got to the heart of an increasingly urgent debate. This paper is essentially constructed around Bereiter's question. It draws on some of the classic literature in the field as well as more recent scholarship that raises issues concerning the historical idea of a liberal education and points to new directions for the future. In particular, it addresses the need to reconsider the ideal of the educated person as a starting point for justifying curriculum content in liberal education, it examines the claims of practical knowledge to be included in the curriculum, and it considers the case for greater attention to pedagogical considerations. It concludes that the literature strongly suggests that the time to forge new a conception of the time honored idea is at hand.

Updated: Jul. 06, 2009