The Slow Death of Liberal Thinking

I shock my US History students every year by stating that I am a Liberal Conservative.  This is because both of those terms have been hijacked.  I love people and wish to see them free in every good sense of that word.  That makes me a Liberal (in stark contrast to how it is often used today).  And I love mankind in a way that wants to conserve the best of our thought and conversation from the past in a way that makes our move toward the future wise and happy.  That makes me a Conservative (again in stark contrast to the way many would use that term today).

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I was part of a discussion this morning that was discussing the contrast in means and ends between what was called a Liberal Arts Education and a Utilitarian Education.  The first seeks to bring a student into a place where they have acquired the arts necessary to aid them in a lifetime pursuit of wisdom and virtue.  The second simply seeks to produce a wealthy and satisfied person who is comfortably numb.  While much good was said and many points raised for pursuing both kinds of education, especially in college, there was a poignant moment when one young man brought me up short.

He stated something I have often guessed out but had never heard put into words before.  “Nothing against you teachers,” he stated, “but it seems like all these questions that concern a Liberal Arts person are questions only old people are really wanting to answer.  Young people just don’t care about these things.”  Another student responded by saying she did not know that it was apathy, but ignorance.  I chimed in that when given even a basic level of facility with thought and philosophy I have found most young people engaged by the great questions.  When I was young, restless, and seeking answers, I found people and places that provided me with some level of instruction in seeking truth.  Do my young charges any such places to turn to?  I think there are still places where the Liberal Arts are applauded, but not as much as prior times provided.

I hope I am helping to push back this loss of life, this loss of how to learn, this position of being chained in front of a cave wall.  God’s Spirit alone can fully unchain the human heart.  May He use me as He desires.  “Bunch of old people” in deed.  Eternally I am young in the pursuit of He Who is True, Good, and Beautiful.

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