Thomas Henry Huxley

Start Free Trial

What is the message in Thomas Huxley's “A Liberal Education; and Where to Find It”?

Quick answer:

Thomas Huxley's message in “A Liberal Education; and Where to Find It” is that England's education system is inadequate and fails to teach students the relevance and breadth of subjects like literature and history.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In his essay “A Liberal Education; and Where to Find It,” Thomas Henry Huxley’s message is that England is doing a bad job educating people in its schools and universities. According to Huxley, a “third-rate” university in Germany generates more profound knowledge than any of England’s supposedly distinguished universities. For Huxley, England’s universities and schools provide a simplistic, if not haphazard, education. A person can learn to read and write, but they will not learn how to enjoy reading or how to pen a proper letter. Similarly, when it comes to history, a student might be able to name “feuds and fights,” but they won’t comprehend the complex causes and conditions of history.

Huxley believes that the insipid education that’s offered throughout England can be remedied with a liberal education. With a liberal education, students see how what they’re learning relates to the present. If they’re studying classic books, they won’t focus on “verbal and grammatical peculiarities” but on their link to “the everlasting problems of human life.” Additionally, students won't view history as a distant series of dormant events but as continuous developments that directly contribute to their current environment.

While Huxley acknowledges that liberal education doesn’t mean getting rid of a basic education altogether, his message appears to be that if the English want a well-rounded, deep-thinking, creative citizenry, they should embrace the tenets of liberal education.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial