Revolution Lullabye

June 11, 2009

Newman, The Idea of a University

Newman, John Henry. The Idea of a University. New York: Longmans, Green and Co., 1947.

First published in 1873, this is the collection of lectures and addresses Newman gave to an Irish Catholic audience in the early 1850s, when he was commissioned to argue for the establishment of an Irish Catholic university in Dublin, a modern, secular university that included theology as a course of study but not a universal frame of study, a university that would provide a Oxford- or Cambridge-level education. His campaign failed, but his articulation of an educational mission – one that would educate the entire person in a liberal tradition – has influenced educational thought since. Full, holistic, liberal education cultivates a habit of mind that lasts a lifetime, with the acquisition of knowledge, not professional training, as the ultimate end. The university’s mission, according to Newman, was not the creation of knowledge, but the dissemination and teaching of it.

Quotable Quotes

liberal education will cultivate a habit of mind with attributes of “freedom, equitableness, calmness, moderation, and wisdom” (90).

“A University is, according to the usual designation, an Alma Mater, knowing her children one by one, not a foundry, or a mint, or a treadmill” (128).

“If a practical end must be assigned to a University course, I say it is that of training good members of society. Its art is the art of social life, and its end is fitness for the world. It neither confines its views to particular professions on the one hand, nor creates heroes or inspires genius on the other. Works indeed of genius fall under no art; heroic minds come under no rule; a University is not a birthplace of poets or of immortal authors, of founders of schools, leaders of colonies, or conquerors of nations. It does not promise a generation of Aristotles or Newtons, of Napoleons or Washingtons, of Raphaels or Shakespeares, though such miracles of nature it has before now constrained within its precincts. Nor it is content on the other hand with forming the critic or the experimentalist, the economist or the engineer, though such too it includes within its scope. But a University training is the great ordinary means to a great but ordinary end…It is the education which gives a man a clear conscious view of his own opinions and judgments, a truth in developing them, an eloquence in expressing them, and a force in urging them. It teaches him to see things as they are, to go right to the point, to disentangle a skein of thought, to detect what is sophistical, and to discard what is irrelevant” (157)

Notable Notes

the importance of educated laity

connections to Freire, Shor, process

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