Departmental Bulletin Paper Liberal Education Traditions in the United Kingdom and United States : An historical perspective

Wenqin Shen,

13pp.25 - 42 , 2016-03 , Research Institute for Higher Education, Hiroshima University
The idea and practice of liberal education has been shaped in two forms in its historical development: the American traditions and British traditions. The idea of liberal education in the United States was borrowed from the United Kingdom and it was deeply influenced by British traditions in terms of highlighting classics and intellectual training. Over more than one hundred years from its Independence to the First World War, Americans began criticizing the aristocracy of British liberal education and gradually developed their own traditions, which were innovative in the idea, interpretation, courses and structure. In terms of the idea of liberal education, Americans highlighted the purpose of liberal education to train free citizens and to meet the demands of the civil society. In terms of the meaning of liberal education, American traditions tended to interpret “liberal” as “free” or “liberating” other than “gentlemanly” or “learned”. In course design, British traditions rarely emphasized broader range and multi-disciplinary. In contrast, course design in American liberal education is more encyclopedic, valuing both liberal arts and sciences and later developing a liberal arts course model combining humanities, social sciences and natural sciences.

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