Education's true nature

January 22, 2009

I wonder if Eddie Blass was intending to be funny in serving up a perfect business definition of liberal education ("Nurture all-round talents", 15 January). She will certainly have displeased few people in her self-proclaimed business-facing university.

For the rest of us, liberal education will continue to be concerned with the pursuit of truth, the relationship between fields of knowledge and the development of standards of judgment that can't be reduced to what Blass calls - here's the big giveaway - "clear criteria" laid down by someone else.

The "whole person" described by Blass is indistinguishable from an institutionalised drone. As for knowing about "the imperfections of the global economy", that's as facile a goal for higher education as anything devised by Leitch.

Let us be clear about this: liberal education worthy of the name is on the side of individuals and society in the broadest sense, not the businesses that seek to develop and exploit their attributes. That is the truly radical challenge facing higher education today. It is one that many institutions, including my own, are able to accept while promoting their students' employability.

David Roberts, Newman University College.

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