Honestly get a Liberal Education
In 1846 John Henry Cardinal Newman left Trinity College, Oxford but he left under the impression that he was for the rest of his life to be surrounded in his travels with the monuments of his education. The Cardinal believed that reason is relied upon to act as a catalyst to knowledge. He found dignity in the pursuit of Science. Newman’s account of a University education is not to manufacture great artists, or infallible critics; no, the goal of the Liberal education is to hone in on the cultural tone of society. Many men and women of the Victorian age were interested in identifying the highest form of thought, to maintain a cultural energy that worked to hold the highest standards of living. A liberally educated individual is suppose to be capable of maintaining themselves appropriately in all situations, holding the reigns of reason over knowledge.
Newman was brought up in London where he attended Trinity College, Oxford. He believed in the scientific way of reasoning
“Such a power is the result of a scientific formation of mind; it is an acquired faculty of judgment, of clearsightedness, of sagacity, of wisdom, of philosophical reach of mind, and intellectual self possession and repose— qualities which do not come of mere acquirement.”(1037Newman)
At Trinity the young student developed a habit of perusing truth and he wrote out a passage that stated
“There used to be much snapdragon growing on the walls opposite my freshman’s rooms there, and I had taken it as the emblem of my perpetual residence even unto death in my University.” (1035Newman)
Oxford offered Newman a vantage point from which he could look down, a place he could use reason to peruse knowledge and science, “It expresses itself, not in mere enunciation but by an enthymeme: it is of the nature of science from the first, and in this consists its dignity”(1036Newman) To Newman it wasn’t the particulars in the science, but the reason to peruse the science itself, he had an ideology that within reason everything was already known. “This is how it comes to be an end in itself; this is why it admits of being called Liberal. Not to know the relative disposition of things is the state of slave or children; to have mapped out the Universe is the boast”(1036Newman) This is one of the foundations Newman built his philosophy on an ideology surely introduced to him throughout his residence at Oxford.
Newman sees the “Liberally” educated mind as a “useful” tool, not as a professional piece of equipment, but adaptive and useful in all the “good” ways. Newman classifies “Good [as] not only good, but reproductive of good; this is one of it’s attributers; nothing is excellent, beautiful, perfect desirable for its own sake, nut it overflows, and spreads the likeness of itself all around it.”(1038) What is meant in this statement is that the mind and the ideas of the educated individual need to feed the overall world in the best way. Newman is stressing the importance of on overall sense of greatness that can be cultivated and nurtured for eons to come. Ideas like this are useful beyond any practical form of measurement, to Newman “it excites first our admiration and love, then our desire and our gratitude, and that in proportion to its intenseness and fullness in particular instances. A great good will impart great good”(1038Newman). They type of education being defined here is capable of harnessing the power of society and focusing it to nurture itself.
We tend to want to look to the faculties we find in modern institutions and ask, “well, if an education is so great, why can’t all of us write like Shakespeare?” Newman stands firm that “university is not a birthplace of poets of immortal authors, of founders of schools, leaders of colonies, or conquerors of nations. “(1040Newman) The role of a Liberal institution is to maintain the frame work created by geniuses like Shakespeare, Aristotle and expose it to developing minds in a way that ensures that student can absorb, work with and mold the information for the common good of his people. A positively developed mind should have “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.” (1040Newman) This type of groundwork when enforced in the right way creates environments form which great thinkers like Shakespeare can develop from and continue the perpetual cycle of “cultivating the public mind”(1040Newman).
For a man so strongly associated to the church, Newman’s views on the liberal education really reflected his knowledge of the society he was living amongst. The Idea of a University is not a religious document, and it’s easy to forget that the author was well on his way to becoming a saint while writing it. Newman remains relatively neutral when defining distinct figures in society, “Hence it is that it is almost a definition of a gentleman to say he is one who never inflicts pain.”(1041Newman) No divinity there. No reference to any historical poets either, or Greek or Roman languages. Newman held similar beliefs that adhered to the principles of some scholars like Thomas Huxley. Huxley like Newman had a good reason for perusing educational reform, “the nemesis of all reformers is finality; and the reformers of education. Like those of religion, fell into the profound, however common, error of mistaking the beginning for the end of the work of reformation.”(1434Huxley) Huxley coined the term “Agnostic” almost forty years after Newman was leaving Oxford, yet Newman could already understand the mind of the Darwinian scholar,
“Not that he may not hold a religion too, in his own way, even when he is not a Christian. In that case his religion is one of imagination and sentiment; it is the embodiment of those ideas of the sublime, majestic, and beautiful, without which there can be no large philosophy.”(1042Newman)
He remains relevant to this day, Cardinal Newman because of his extremely liberal position and his extremely forward thinking vision.
Looking around the river valley surrounding Concordia one can easily realize in ones own mind what Newman meant when he wrote “On the morning of the 23rd I left the Observatory. I have never seen Oxford since, excepting its spires, as are seem from the railway.” In this day and age we can find those spires, those downtown reminders of our relationship to our knowledge. Concordia is that institution that bridges that instrumental theory into a source of reason. It’s where as a person can attribute himself or herself to a cause. To peruse the steps that cause the reaction they wish to analyze. Newman influence over a liberal education was great and in a positive way. He ensured to leave statement that maintained an open end to the reform of educational institutions. Those spires we see around us throughout our travels are the reminders that the liberal education never ends. Concordia offers us a modern look at the past, a reflection of our society that we can trust. Allowing us to move forward, within reason to use science right. Newman’s foresight infringes us from stagnating our minds into the particularities of science and religion. Newman saw himself as liberally educated man that because of his education was able to standalone and radiate the truth within his society.
Newman, Cardinal, The Idea of a University, Eight Edition The Norton Anthology. ED
Stephen Greenblatt. New York .2006. 1035-42 Print.
Huxley, Thomas, Science and Culture, Eight Edition The Norton Anthology. ED
Stephen Greenblatt. New York .2006. 1429-35 Print.