Learning of Liberty: The Educational Ideas of the American Founders

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Overview

American schools are in a state of crisis.

At the root of our current perplexity, beneath the difficulties with funding, social problems, and low test scores, festers a serious uncertainty as to what the focus and goals of education should be. We are increasingly haunted by the suspicion that our educational theories and institutions have lost sight of the need to perpetuate a core of moral and civic knowledge that is essential for any citizen's education, and indeed for any individual's happiness. Mining the Founders' rich reflections on education, the Pangles suggest, can help us recover a clearer sense of perspective and purpose.

With a commanding knowledge of the history of political philosophy, the authors illustrate how the Founders both drew upon and transformed the ideas of earlier philosophers of education such as Plato, Xenophon, Milton, Bacon, and Locke. They trace the emergence of a new American ideal of public education that puts civic instruction at its core to sustain a high quality of leadership and public discourse while producing resourceful, self-reliant members of a uniquely fluid society.

The Pangles also explore the wisdom and the weaknesses inherent in Jefferson's attempt to create a comprehensive system of schooling that would educate parents and children and offer unprecedented freedom of choice to university students. An original closing section examines the Founders' ideas for bringing all aspects of society to bear on education. It also shows how Washington, Jefferson, and Franklin presented their own lives as models for the education of others and analyzes the subtle, provocative moral philosophy implicit in the self-depiction of each.

The Learning of Liberty is historical and scholarly yet relentlessly practical, seeking from the Founders useful insights into the human soul and the character of good education. Even if the Founders do not provide us with ready-made solutions to many of our problems, the Pangles suggest, a study of their writings can give us a more realistic perspective, by teaching that our bewilderment is in some measure an outgrowth of unresolved tensions embedded in the Founders' own conceptions of republicanism, religion, education, and human nature.

This book is part of the American Political Thought series.

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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
Exploring the writings of Franklin, Washington, Jefferson (et al.) the authors trace the emergence of the American ideal of a public education that puts civic instruction at the core. They also show that current confusion as to the goals of education are echoed by the founders' struggle with conceptions of education, republicanism, and human nature. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780700607464
  • Publisher: University Press of Kansas
  • Publication date: 9/28/1995
  • Series: American Political Thought Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 370
  • Product dimensions: 5.96 (w) x 8.94 (h) x 0.81 (d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction 1
Pt. 1 The Legacy 9
1 The Problematic Heritage of European Education 11
2 Classical Republican Educational Ideals 32
3 The Lockean Revolution in Educational Theory 54
Pt. 2 Schools for the Emerging Republic 73
4 Benjamin Franklin and the Idea of a Distinctively American Academy 75
5 The American Insistence on Public Schooling as Essential to Democracy 91
6 Thomas Jefferson on the Education of Citizens and Leaders 106
7 The Unfulfilled Visions for a System of Public Schooling 125
8 Higher Education 146
Pt. 3 Institutions beyond the School 185
9 Religion 187
10 Economic and Political Life as Sources of Moral Education 202
11 Education through the Free Exchange of Ideas 214
Pt. 4 Education through Emulation 229
12 George Washington and the Principle of Honor 231
13 Thomas Jefferson and the Natural Basis of Moral Education 250
14 Benjamin Franklin and the Art of Virtue 265
Conclusion 285
Notes 289
Bibliography 329
Index 339
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