Cronon’s Liberal Education

In his essay “Only Connect…” Cronon declares that the goal of a liberal education is to “celebrate and nurture human freedom.” He considers this a widely accepted fact; it’s not an argument. The issue, according to Cronon, is in how we decide to reach that goal. Cronon is responding to the boards of various colleges and academic systems as a whole. He argues that liberal education is never complete and that it’s not a state that one can attain, but rather a journey to learn more. He also argues that liberal educations are advertised as to be for the individual, when they’re actually about community and making a difference in the world and something greater than ourselves. Cronon believes that as colleges set course requirements and post lists, they lose sight of their original goals about human freedom. He then lists qualities he thinks a liberally educated person should have, rather than required courses that person should take. His list is relatively similar to the TED talk we watched in class about how to have better conversations; they both include listening to the world and people around you, being curious, accessible rhetoric, open to learning about and from others, being supportive, and connection being the most important thing.

I personally found Cronon’s argument to be very compelling, in part because I already had similar views. His argument was also persuasive because he made his points clearly, accessibly, and they seemed passionate. He didn’t use any real world examples, other than referencing the college motto he thought was poor. He explained his arguments, even without the aid of specific real world examples, so I would say he still had evidence for his philosophy. The only part of his argument that I don’t necessarily agree with is the part about liberal education not being for the benefit of individuals. I think that while it’s true that liberal education empowers individuals who then empower the community, it’s also true that liberal education prepares you to do well for yourself without the community necessarily.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *