American Liberal Arts Blog

Teaching the Liberal Arts in the American Context

Pedagogy and Teaching

The Renewal of Culture and Education in Josef Pieper’s Thought – Part II
By Lee Trepanier on August 17, 2009

The aim of liberal education is to transform the mind and character of the student so he or she will become a different type of individual—one who, by referencing various disciplines, is capable of discovering insights into complex issues and exercising prudential judgment as a person and as a citizen. However, a liberal education is not enough to transform the entire person, as Pieper recognizes. Education by itself cannot be the means for moral improvement; rather, culture, of which education is a part, is the mode to improve our character.

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On Teaching the Relevance of Political Theory
By Steven McGuire on August 14, 2009

Most of the students in my introductory political theory class are enrolled because they have to be. They cannot graduate as political science majors without taking at least one course in political thought. That presents a special challenge for me as their teacher because I need to convince them that they want to be in my class—or at least I’d like to convince them. Obviously not every student will be persuaded, but I think many of them can be, so I’m looking for ways to make the class more interesting for them. One of the key ways to achieve this, I have found, is to give them examples of the relevance of the materials for life today.

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Educating the Millenial Generation – Part I
By Gerson Moreno-Riano on August 13, 2009
Adapted from an article originally published in the Fall 2008 Canon,
ISI's member and alumni magazine


Education is the task of crafting the souls of students. It is never simply about conveying information so that students can enlarge their body of knowledge. While education should indeed contribute to a student’s basic knowledge of facts, education is ultimately about cultivating a particular kind of human being.

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The Renewal of Culture and Education in Josef Pieper’s Thought – Part I
By Lee Trepanier on August 11, 2009

Josef Pieper believes that the cult, as the ritual of public sacrifice, is the primary source of our independence and freedom, with leisure, as the basis of culture, defined as our fundamental relationship to reality as a type of philosophical act, where we learn to see how worthy certain aspects of reality are and therefore require a celebration of them in divine worship. This philosophical act is to participate in reality as it unveils itself to us and is characterized by enthusiasm and freedom. The reason why philosophy is regarded as the most free of the liberal arts is because it is the farthest removed from utilitarian concerns.

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Five Important Questions About Effective Teaching
By Gerson Moreno-Riano on August 07, 2009

In previous blog posts, I have commented on Ken Bain's What the Best College Teachers Do (Harvard, 2004). Bain's book, in my opinion, is a well-documented, evidence-driven, and hard look at excellent and effective college teaching. It gives one much to think about and challenges one to look deep into one’s own teaching.

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Education is Not a Business
By Lee Trepanier on August 04, 2009

In an article in the February Inside Higher Ed called “The Business Model is the Wrong Model,” Peter Katopes argues that the market place model of customer satisfaction and efficiency has created a culture of entitlement, instant gratification, and institutional fiscal irresponsibility.

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Some Basics of Online Teaching
By Gerson Moreno-Riano on August 02, 2009

More and more universities and colleges are augmenting their traditional course offerings with online course offerings. "If students can't come to us," so the logic goes "then, perhaps, we can go them." And thus, virtual campuses are birthed with many living a long and healthy life and others only surviving short term. Given this rise in online teaching, what are some of the basics that faculty should know about virtual teaching?

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On Teaching Students to Write Well
By Anonymous on July 30, 2009

I try to design my classes so that students will learn both the materials and important skills that they will continue to use for the rest of their lives. In the coming semester, I want to focus in particular on writing ability, and I’m trying to devise a system that will help my students to develop their writing skills over the course of the semester.

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Christianity and the American Founding
By Anonymous on July 29, 2009

There is an interesting series of books coming out of Johns Hopkins Press, edited by Garrett Ward Sheldon: The Political Philosophy of... So far it has covered Jefferson, Madison (both by Ward himself), Franklin (Lorraine Pangle), and Washington (Jeffry Morrison). All seem to subscribe to the basic idea of a synthesis of classical republicanism, British liberalism, and Christianity is the basic backdrop of the American Founding. I would be interested to know what other Lehrman fellows think of this collection and this synthesis.

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The Study of Law as True Substantive Order – Part 1 of 5
By Lee Trepanier on July 28, 2009

When students learn the law today, they are taught more likely than not from the perspective of legal positivism. This school of thought asserts three principles: 1) the social fact thesis, 2) the conventionality thesis, and 3) the separability thesis. The first claims that legal validity is a function of certain kinds of social facts; the second emphasizes the law’s conventional nature; and the third denies any connection between law and morality. These assumptions are usually not explicitly stated in the classroom but are implied when students read about constitutional cases, examine legal ethical dilemmas, or explore the philosophical underpinnings of the law itself.

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