Blog Post: The liberally educated mind

Linda Elder
Jan 01, 2020 • 291d ago
The liberally educated mind

{"ops":[{"insert":"In revising our guide: "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"The Thinker's Guide for Conscientious Citizens on How to Detect Media Bias & Propaganda"},{"insert":", I explore the concept of the "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"liberal minded person"},{"insert":". Though the term \"liberal\" has been used throughout modern history to refer to differing political positions and worldviews, it behooves us to explore how it makes sense to think of the liberal minded person today, especially in relationship with education. The term \"liberal education\" seems now largely excluded from discussions focused on school reform at any level. This is a pity, given that liberal education, properly conceived, dovetails with any rich conception of critical thinking. Both concepts advance freedom of thought and expression as well as all other inalienable human rights. Here is one section from the revised book (to be published in early 2020 by Rowman & Littlefield under a new title) which explores the concept of the liberal minded person in connection with detecting media bias:\n"},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":" "},{"attributes":{"align":"center"},"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":" "},{"attributes":{"align":"center"},"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"Political Views in the News: Understanding the Liberal-Minded Person"},{"attributes":{"align":"center"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":" \nIn reading the news it is important to understand something of how people tend to be categorized politically in today’s climate, since these groups rally around opposing news outlets. From the viewpoint of political orientation, people in the U.S. are characteristically categorized, if at all, as either “conservative,” typically connected with the Republican Party, or “liberal,” usually associated with the Democratic party. But neither of the two pairings tell the full picture; and this way of looking at politics may grossly misrepresent people who do not identify as either democrats or republicans but still think of themselves as liberal or conservative, or having inclinations toward both ends of the political spectrum on different issues. In other words, conservative or liberal positions should be understood in terms of a continuum, rather than in terms of black and white, in which a person may move from right to left or left to right depending on the issue. For instance, people frequently want big government for one set of goals, and small government for another set of goals. Big government is now considered a “liberal” position, while small government is considered “conservative,” but again, a liberal person may for the most part prefer small government and a more conservative person may sometimes opt for larger government. In short, a person can hold both traditionally conservative views on some issues, while holding a more traditionally liberal position on other issues. In other words, to say of a man that he is conservative, properly speaking, is not to say that he is necessarily of the republican party, but rather that he has conservative views on many or most issues. At the same time, to say of a woman that she is liberal is not necessarily to imply that she is a democrat or never appreciates or takes a conservative position. Yet the news media treat people as if we all neatly fit into these two narrow and frequently improper categories of “conservative” (i.e. republican), or “liberal” (i.e. democrat).\n \nOne good way to avoid these labels is to begin with a rich idea of the "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"liberal-minded person"},{"insert":", which is not to be equated with any given political party in the U.S. today. The concept of the liberal mind relates with the concept of "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"liberal education"},{"insert":", which entails fairminded critical thinking, intellectual cultivation, emancipation of the mind, and the advancement of freedom of thought, along with the protection of all inalienable human rights. Cultivating the liberally educated mind is rarely the focus of higher education today, which is instead run largely according to business principles and values, and preparing people for the so called “work world.” A liberal-minded person embodies intellectual virtues such as intellectual autonomy, intellectual integrity, intellectual humility, intellectual empathy, and confidence in reasoning. Liberal-minded persons think through every political issue from the point of reasonability and ethical responsibility. They are not beholden to any political party because they recognize potential strengths and weaknesses in all political parties.\n \nIt is helpful to consider how educated persons use the term “liberal,” which we should be able to find in a good dictionary. The "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"Oxford English Dictionary"},{"insert":" (OED online, 2019) gives this definition: “free from bias, prejudice, or bigotry; open-minded, tolerant… favoring social reform and a degree of state intervention in matters of economics and social justice…directed to a general broadening of the mind…open to the reception of new ideas or proposals of reform… supporting or advocating individual rights, civil liberties, and political and social reform tending towards individual freedom or democracy with little state intervention.” \n \nTo the degree that any political party embodies these principles, it can be said to be liberal in orientation. But if the term “liberal” is commandeered by people who do not understand its meaning, political correctness can and does result. When this happens, the political party claiming to be liberal, rather than advocating openmindedness, the pursuit of equal rights and the advancement of freedoms, instead advances, perhaps inadvertently, the narrowing of freedoms in accord with their own political views. For instance, all reasonable persons will agree that sexual harassment should be denounced and avoided. But sometimes what appears to one as sexual harassment may instead entail simply approaching a person one is attracted to and giving them unwanted attention that then must be pointed out. An off-color joke or remark today can mean the end of someone’s career. In the workplace, many people do not think it appropriate for people of different genders to have professional meetings alone, without others present, as if they needed a chaperone to ensure neither party becomes flirtatious or makes an unwanted advance. For instance, "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"The New York Times"},{"insert":"reports that, according to one of their polls, around 25% of those polled believe that “private work meetings with colleagues of the opposite sex are inappropriate. Nearly two-thirds say people should take extra caution around members of the opposite sex at work.”"},{"attributes":{"color":"black","link":"about:blank"},"insert":"[1]"},{"insert":" Any sort of physical contact at all is now all but banned in the workplace, so that simply lightly touching someone’s arm can result in a sexual harassment claim. If a student is made to feel “uncomfortable” in the classroom, the professor may lose her or his job, even when that discomfort comes simply from the normal confusion, perplexity, and uneasiness that accompanies any form of deep and transformative learning (which is the whole point of education). \n \nVulgar, unsophisticated, and overly simplistic views should never be confused with critical, high-minded thought, nor with a liberal viewpoint; yet these and related positions are often pushed by those who consider themselves “left-leaning.” Similarly, conservative viewpoints should not automatically be stereotyped as “right-leaning” or republican. Of course, many liberal-minded persons and conservative critical thinkers choose to affiliate with political parties outside of the democratic or republican party. Or they stand alone without allegiance to any political party, taking each issue as it comes, making the best judgments based on the evidence and other essential tools of criticality.\n\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"purple","link":"about:blank"},"insert":"[1]"},{"insert":" Miller, C. (July 1, 2017). "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"It’s Not Just Mike Pense. Americans Are Wary of Being Alone With the Opposite Sex. "},{"attributes":{"color":"purple","link":"https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/01/upshot/members-of-the-opposite-sex-at-work-gender-study.html"},"insert":"https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/01/upshot/members-of-the-opposite-sex-at-work-gender-study.html"},{"insert":"\n\n"}]}


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Posted by: Joseph Halter

{"ops":[{"insert":"Thank you Linda for the update and revisions to your upcoming, "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"The Thinker's Guide for Conscientious Citizens on How to Detect Media Bias & Propaganda. "},{"insert":"\nI embrace this thought deeply, \"Or they stand alone without allegiance to any political party, taking each issue as it comes, making the best judgments based on the evidence and other essential tools of criticality.\" We need to think for ourselves.\nYes, I enjoy hearing, reading and speaking with many people of political, social, religious and economic viewpoints. We can learn much from each other. The Elder/Paul model for critical thinking is such a great framework for analyzing and assessing complex issues and using the elements and intellectual standards to develop our intellectual traits.\nI appreciate the examples provided where \"labels\" are assumed for groups and the countervailing ability to look at each issue based on its own merits.\n"}]}