Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Re:defining Liberal Values - Greg Miller - Poet and Janice Trimble Professor of English at Millsaps College, Mississppi.

How do I understand ‘(re)defining liberal values’? An education in the liberal arts is an education in how to live life as a free person, and liberal values are central to the liberal arts: openness and inquisitiveness distrustful of cant and received opinion, not merely a toleration but also a hunger for perspectives different from one’s own, and vigorous support of a civic order that encourages conversation open to discovery and transformation. For John Milton, the very act of deferring blindly to authority – whether that authority be a church, the state, a tradition, a party, a text, or any human ‘assembly’ including schools or universities – can make one what he called a ‘heretick in the truth.’ We have to exercise our minds and spirits just as we must exercise our bodies if we are to be strong, vigorous and free. In our historical moment, to redefine liberal values requires attentiveness to the realities and complexities of national and world economic disparities; educational opportunities – across class, gender, and race – can be instrumental in transforming political, economic and personal realities and possibilities, but education alone cannot make us free. Insecurities, particularly following the attacks of 9/11 on New York and Washington, D.C., have fueled the irrational behavior of individuals and nations. Traditional civil liberties are at risk in many historic democracies. Central to redefining liberal values is a study of how best to promote peace between peoples and nations, defending, through international law, minorities and vulnerable peoples – groups and individuals – throughout the world.

5th July, 2011

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