We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

Idealism and Liberal Education

James O. Freedman

Publication Year: 1996

With refreshing eloquence, James O. Freedman sets down the American ideals that have informed his life as an intellectual, a law professor, and a college and university president. He examines the content and character of liberal education, discusses the importance of letters and learning in forming his own life and values, and explores how the lessons and the habits of mind instilled by a liberal education can give direction and meaning to one's life. He offers a stirring defense of affirmative action in higher education. And he describes how, in the midst of undergoing chemotherapy for cancer, liberal education helped him in that most human of desires--the yearning to make order and sense out of his experience. Part intellectual biography and part examination of the world of higher education, Idealism and Liberal Education is a quintessentially American book, animated by a confidence that reason, knowledge, idealism, and the better angels of our natures will further human progress. Freedman offers, as models for shaping one's life, profiles of some of his heroes--Thurgood Marshall, Alexander M. Bickel, V-clav Havel, Louis D. Brandeis, Felix Frankfurter, Hugo L. Black, Flannery O'Connor, Eudora Welty, George Orwell, Edmund Wilson, Martin Luther King, Jr., George F. Kennan, Ralph J. Bunche, and Harry S Truman. This volume speaks to all Americans who are drawn to the power of liberal education and democratic citizenship and who yearn for the inspiration to lead thoughtful, committed lives. "This thought-provoking book should be required reading for young people entering college and for the people who advise them. Freedman explores the purpose and importance of a liberal education in shaping values, character, and imagination and convincingly argues for the need for the wisdom and perspective it provides, whatever one's chosen field."--Marian Wright Edelman, President, Children's Defense Fund "In this wide-ranging series of essays, Freedman reveals himself again as one of America's most erudite, articulate, and reflective university presidents. Students, parents, fellow presidents, and all who love learning will find something in these pages to ponder with profit."--Derek Bok, Former President, Harvard University Idealism and Liberal Education is an inspiring intellectual diary of James O. Freedman. . . . It is a forceful affirmation of liberal education as a social and cultural force in shaping the minds and characters of our youth as future citizens and leaders of our democracy. It is a tribute to the joy of learning."--Vartan Gregorian, President, Brown University "Beautifully written and a pleasure to read. At a time when the idea of the liberal university is under attack from all sides, Freedman has given a wondrous personal reaffirmation of its place in our lives."--David Halberstam James O. Freedman is President of Dartmouth College.

Published by: University of Michigan Press

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (382.4 KB)
pp. 1-5

This is a book about liberal education and its goals. It reflects my experience as president of the University of Iowa, from 1982 to 1987, and as president of Dartmouth College, since 1987. It rests on my belief that liberal education is the surest instrument yet devised for developing those civilizing qualities of mind and character that enable men and women to lead...

1. Life and Letters

read more

Becoming an Educator

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.7 MB)
pp. 9-30

When I was a schoolboy, we were required to read Macaulay's magisterial Essay on Johnson. Published in 1856, it remains an ideal model of expository prose and one of the best short assessments of the life and work of the great eighteenth-century critic and lexicographer. The final homework assignment was to identify the sentence in Macaulay's essay that best...

read more

The Joys of Collecting Books

pdf iconDownload PDF (791.7 KB)
pp. 31-41

I have been fortunate, from a book-collecting point of view, in that I have moved twice in recent years, first from Philadelphia to Iowa City, and then from Iowa City to Hanover. On both occasions, the exigencies of moving caused me to rid my library of those books I no longer especially wanted. Identifying books as candidates for triage is not a congenial enterprise, but the fact is that some titles, with the passage...

read more

A Dukedom Large Enough

pdf iconDownload PDF (330.5 KB)
pp. 43-47

As one who loves and collects books, I was honored several years ago to be asked to speak at a university that had just added the two-millionth volume to its library. It had selected the Second Folio edition of William Shakespeare to mark this special occasion. Shakespeare remains our greatest maker of books, our supreme exemplar of poetic achievement, our...

read more

Presidential Prose

pdf iconDownload PDF (111.9 KB)
pp. 49-50

Our greatest judges—from John Marshall to Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., and Louis Dembitz Brandeis—have always understood the beguiling allure of the piquant aphorism and what Justice Benjamin N. Cardozo, in his elegant essay on "Law and Literature," called "the mnemonic power of alliteration and antithesis" and "the terseness and tang of the proverb...

read more

The Stillness and the Courage

pdf iconDownload PDF (94.6 KB)
pp. 51-52

What is the value of a liberal education? That question brings to mind Benjamin Franklin's famous remark when he was asked, as the Constitutional Convention came to a close, what was the use of the new document. "What is the use," he responded, "of a newborn child?"...

2. Content and Character in Liberal Education

read more

The Teaching of Values in a Liberal Education

pdf iconDownload PDF (329.1 KB)
pp. 55-59

Higher education inevitably presents the most troubling and perplexing questions concerning the teaching of values. In approaching those questions, one cannot escape the aptness of Judge Learned Hand's definition of the spirit of liberty: "the spirit which is not too sure that it is right." He was fond of recalling Cromwell's statement, "I beseech ye in the bowels of...

read more

The Promise of Equality

pdf iconDownload PDF (510.4 KB)
pp. 61-67

In Brown v. Board of Education (1954), the Supreme Court held that racial segregation in the public schools is unconstitutional. The Court's unequivocal affirmation of the equal rights of all citizens was, as Richard Kluger writes in Simple Justice, "nothing short of a reconsecration of...

read more

The Organization of Knowledge

pdf iconDownload PDF (508.4 KB)
pp. 69-75

In an age of abundant questions and scant resources, no university any longer pretends to teach all knowledge. Few even claim to provide an overview of the major divisions of knowledge. But in order to function at all, a university must have some system for organizing...

read more

Science and Liberal Learning

pdf iconDownload PDF (314.3 KB)
pp. 77-80

Colleges committed to liberal education have a special responsibility to think about the meaning of science for the citizens of a democratic society. The achievements of science and technology offer fruitful opportunities and daunting dilemmas for every nation on earth. But particularly they pose challenges for nations, like ours, that govern themselves by...

read more

Liberal Education and the Legal Profession

pdf iconDownload PDF (801.0 KB)
pp. 81-91

As a law professor and law school dean turned university president, I have come to believe that there is, or should be, a tight and sinewy bond between the academic enterprise I have taken on and the one that I have left behind, for liberal education and legal education grow out of the same tradition of humane learning. Indeed, legal education can be no stronger...

read more

The Lessons of the Law

pdf iconDownload PDF (350.3 KB)
pp. 93-97

As the speaker at a law school commencement several years ago, I told the graduating students that exactly thirty years earlier I had stood in a similar place as they did then and for a similar purpose, and that I believed then, as I had believed on that earlier day, that Justice Holmes was majestically right in stating that a person can "live greatly...

read more

The Professor's Life

pdf iconDownload PDF (295.6 KB)
pp. 99-102

Someone has defined a university president as a person who shuttles between God and Mammon. In the course of my own efforts to preach the hallowed ideals of the university while seeking the financial means of bringing them into reality, I am continually struck by the contrast between what those outside the university believe that professors do and what they...

3. Models for Shaping a Life

read more

Public Selves, Private Selves

pdf iconDownload PDF (317.5 KB)
pp. 105-109

The college years are, of course, years of personal development, years when students prepare to "burst the cocoon" and "get into the open." They are years in which students confront the question of how to shape a life that is satisfying and meaningful. As each of us of an older generation can attest, such satisfaction and meaning do not come easily. But they are...

read more

The Power of Idealism

pdf iconDownload PDF (304.5 KB)
pp. 111-114

This is the first generation to enter college after the collapse of Communism and the end of the cold war. My generation, by contrast, attended college when the cold war was most menacing, when the Soviet Union threatened the interests of the United States around the world, and when the domestic search for subversion produced the political cancer of...

read more

The Value of Intellectuals

pdf iconDownload PDF (208.5 KB)
pp. 115-117

The peoples of the Soviet Union, Poland, Hungary, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Romania, and the Baltic nations have recently wrought a renaissance in the ancient values of political democracy and individual liberty. They have done so with stunning swiftness and an irresistible sense of purpose. What are the lessons that graduates of a liberal arts college can...

read more

Insiders and Outsiders

pdf iconDownload PDF (700.4 KB)
pp. 119-128

The story of Jewish leadership in American society, and specifically of a half-century of Jewish leadership on the Supreme Court of the United States, plays out the title of a poem by Archibald MacLeish: "America Is Promises." From the very beginning, America has indeed been promises, often cast in the form of bold assertions, starting with the statement in the...

read more

Thurgood Marshall: Man of Character

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.1 MB)
pp. 129-143

In 1742, Henry Fielding began Joseph Andrews, one of the first great English novels, with the sentence, "It is a trite but true observation that examples work more forcibly on the mind than precepts: and if this be just in what is odious and blamable, it is more strongly so in what is amiable and praiseworthy." In calling attention to the power...

read more

The Capacity of Imagination

pdf iconDownload PDF (288.7 KB)
pp. 145-148

As the novel opens, the businessman Thomas Gradgrind is haranguing the local schoolmaster on the need for a pedagogical revolution to prepare students for the new age that was then at hand. "Now, what I want is Facts," he insists. "Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts." In Gradgrind's narrow curricular design, there is little room for ideas, for...

read more

Originals and Copies

pdf iconDownload PDF (387.7 KB)
pp. 149-153

My own college years were during the Eisenhower administration—when television was still in black and white and the uniform of business was the gray flannel suit. A prominent book of the period was a collection of introspective essays by college students, entitled The Unsilent Generation—the self-portrait of a generation that was sharply criticized for its...

read more

Those Who Are Truly Great

pdf iconDownload PDF (348.3 KB)
pp. 155-159

In confronting that momentous question—a question often avoided because its weight makes us uncomfortable—we can take valuable guidance from the lives and accomplishments of people who inspire us—people who, in the words of the English poet Stephen Spender, are "truly great . . . those who in their lives...

read more

Ordinary Backgrounds, Extraordinary Men

pdf iconDownload PDF (367.6 KB)
pp. 161-165

There was little indication in the outward circumstances of their early lives that either would achieve greatness. Yet each helped to shape the postwar world and guide the United States and the United Nations into an era of vast and unprecedented responsibilities. Ralph Bunche and Harry Truman each had an unwavering sense of who he was and a rare ability to...

read more

Essayists and Solitude

pdf iconDownload PDF (390.4 KB)
pp. 167-171

Much of our lives will be spent in solitary activities—thinking, reading, writing, studying, or waiting. Nevertheless, as effective as many colleges may be at nurturing admirable qualities, they are not as good as they ought to be at preparing individuals to confront the quiet and the solitude—the resounding silence—that the human condition inevitably...


pdf iconDownload PDF (792.1 KB)
pp. 173-186

E-ISBN-13: 9780472023837
E-ISBN-10: 0472023837
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472086702
Print-ISBN-10: 0472086707

Page Count: 200
Publication Year: 1996