Liberal Education and Liberal Democracy

Summary of Study

Bottom Line: Professor Jenna Silber Storey argues that liberal education rightly understood can help students choose well among competing ends. She suggests that a K-12 classical model of education will help inculcate a civic rebirth in America.

Professor Jenna Silber Storey argues that a deep connection exists between democratic politics and liberal education. “Liberal education,” she says, “needs to regain the confidence and the ability to teach the art of choosing to get people to be seriously interested in hearing what other people have chosen.” She sees this goal as the most important means to reinvigorating our civic life.

In Storey’s estimation, colleges and universities don’t equip students to think and choose well between goods – specifically, the ends to which our choices are directed. Students instead search frantically for what they think will make them happy without ever finding it. Institutions of higher learning should guide students to think about ends, providing them with the tools they need to become citizens of character. They should remember the stature they possess in American public life and the duty with which they have been entrusted to mold students into citizens who can participate in republican self-government.

Storey urges parents and students to look to K-12 classical schools, which are having remarkable success in reviving liberal education. Classical education, she says, engages students’ minds and hands in “a complete education for a whole human being.” She recommends that students attend colleges and universities that follow this model, such as St. Johns, the University of Dallas, and Baylor University Honor’s Program. Citizens should support “the restoration of a classical model of edu­cation,” one capable of “cultivating citizens who can reform and restore our liberal political order.”

Read the full speech here.