The Voice of Liberal Learning

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

From the front page of the newspaper to the film section, from the arid files of committee reports to the best-seller list, there is evidence everywhere of concern with the state of education in the United States. Much of the talk about this issue, however, seems merely to repeat what has already been said: accounts of what the Japanese are doing in their schools and how we might emulate them; arguments over reading lists; and so on. The virtue of THE VOICE OF LIBERAL LEARNING is that it brings a strikingly fresh perspective to this much-discussed subject.

Oakeshott is a British political philosopher whose works are distinguished by their austere intelligence and their independence of approach. He is generally described as conservative, but that label is misleading insofar as it implies allegiance to any traditional worldview, religious or otherwise. As a philosopher, he is skeptical of all explanatory systems. In this volume, Timothy Fuller, a professor of political science at Colorado College, has gathered six essays and lectures by Oakeshott relating to education, the earliest from 1949, the most recent from 1975. In addition, Fuller has provided a substantial introduction that places these writings in the larger context of Oakeshott’s thought.

Oakeshott’s vision of liberal learning is most clearly and powerfully articulated in “A Place of Learning,” originally delivered as a lecture at Colorado College in 1975. In Oakeshott’s...

(The entire section is 402 words.)