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Why is liberal education so incoherent? An anthropological perspective

Why is liberal education so incoherent? An anthropological perspective Purpose – This paper's purpose is to account for liberal education's characteristic incoherence. Design/methodology/approach – Its approach is to sketch a dilemma created by cultures being inherently conservative, while nations, in order to be internationally competitive, need to be innovative. The definitional and systemic bases of culture's conservatism offer no point of attack; but a third base is enculturation, which does. Findings – Shortly after puberty, society's more promising young people are strongly urged to leave home for an extended period, and be exposed to ways of acting and thinking that often clash with how they have been brought up. They are encouraged to explore new subjects and indulge their curiosity; they are encouraged to “think outside the box” of their own enculturation. The incoherence of liberal education leaves them not with a sense of closure, but in a state of constructive confusion conducive to innovation in all aspects of life. Liberal education thus serves the social function of countering the anti‐innovative tendency of culture. Practical implications – Attempts to impose coherence on undergraduate educational experience by “tying things all together” for students are ill‐advised. Originality/value – Seeing incoherence as a desirable rather than deplorable feature of undergraduate liberal education can help us facilitate rather than inadvertently inhibit innovative thought and action in the rising generation. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png On the Horizon Emerald Publishing

Why is liberal education so incoherent? An anthropological perspective

On the Horizon , Volume 22 (1): 9 – Feb 4, 2014

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References (20)

Publisher
Emerald Publishing
Copyright
Copyright © 2014 Emerald Group Publishing Limited. All rights reserved.
ISSN
1074-8121
DOI
10.1108/OTH-09-2013-0030
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Purpose – This paper's purpose is to account for liberal education's characteristic incoherence. Design/methodology/approach – Its approach is to sketch a dilemma created by cultures being inherently conservative, while nations, in order to be internationally competitive, need to be innovative. The definitional and systemic bases of culture's conservatism offer no point of attack; but a third base is enculturation, which does. Findings – Shortly after puberty, society's more promising young people are strongly urged to leave home for an extended period, and be exposed to ways of acting and thinking that often clash with how they have been brought up. They are encouraged to explore new subjects and indulge their curiosity; they are encouraged to “think outside the box” of their own enculturation. The incoherence of liberal education leaves them not with a sense of closure, but in a state of constructive confusion conducive to innovation in all aspects of life. Liberal education thus serves the social function of countering the anti‐innovative tendency of culture. Practical implications – Attempts to impose coherence on undergraduate educational experience by “tying things all together” for students are ill‐advised. Originality/value – Seeing incoherence as a desirable rather than deplorable feature of undergraduate liberal education can help us facilitate rather than inadvertently inhibit innovative thought and action in the rising generation.

Journal

On the HorizonEmerald Publishing

Published: Feb 4, 2014

Keywords: Liberal education; Cultural conservatism; Enculturation; Innovative imperative; International competition; Replication vs innovation

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