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Title:Making the examined life worth living: The ethics of being a liberal educator
Author(s):Jo, Katherine Ki-Jung
Director of Research:Higgins, Chris
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Higgins, Chris
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Burbules, Nicholas; Layton, Richard; Zamani-Gallaher, Eboni
Department / Program:Educ Policy, Orgzn & Leadrshp
Discipline:Educational Policy Studies
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Liberal Education, Higher Education, College Student Development, Pedagogy, Flourishing
Abstract:This dissertation challenges the dominant conception of liberal education today, or the “Socratic ideal of liberal education,” which is rooted in the ideal of the examined life and has as its core practice the critical examination of the beliefs that shape one’s life and world. This practice is thought to enable students to reconstruct their lives with views they have deliberately and autonomously chosen and to thereby lead flourishing lives. Moreover, within the Socratic ideal, the educator’s job is to unsettle students by provoking them to question and examine their beliefs, without offering students guidance about what to believe. I argue that the practices of the examined life today, which are embedded in an intellectual ethos that valorizes autonomy and a rationalistic and skeptical mode of engaging with the world, is insufficient for students’ flourishing and can impede it by disrupting four conditions of flourishing — epistemic stability, orientation and purpose, faith in and hope for humanity, and a sense of belonging. The Socratic ideal offers inadequate resources for mitigating these risks and for helping students reconstruct their beliefs so as to restore these conditions. These concerns raise ethical questions for liberal educators and are especially significant for today’s “emerging adults,” who scholars argue need more support and guidance due to the weakening of traditional norms and social structures in modern society. Taking into account these developmental needs, I propose an alternative vision for liberal education guided by a conception of flourishing defined as “wholehearted engagement with the good.” In this vision, the liberal educator assumes a “pastoral” role, shepherding students through the examined life by creating a transitional community that supports students in their uncertainty and by offering them substantive guidance based on her own views. This vision also offers a broader conception of the examined life, in which students engage in holistic, affirmative inquiry, the purpose of which is to help student form their beliefs and discover possibilities for wholehearted engagement with the good. This vision ensures that the examined life serves as an ideal for liberal education that truly enables students to live lives worth living.
Issue Date:2019-05-08
Rights Information:Copyright 2019 Katherine Ki-jung Jo
Date Available in IDEALS:2019-11-26
Date Deposited:2019-08

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