The Meaning of a Liberal Education

By Everett Dean Martin | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XV--POSTSCRIPT
ADULT EDUCATION IN AMERICA

When the European universities were established in the late Middle Ages, they were not, like our modern American colleges, super-high-schools. It was not their primary purpose to give to undergraduates and aspiring professional students a maximum fund of information during a brief period of residence. There were many thousands of such students, but the college or university was in a real sense an institution for adult education. It was a place of residence for mature scholars, a center where such men could pursue their studies and live the life of education, just as in the monasteries men could live the "religious" life. The teaching which went on in these universities was in a sense a secondary activity.

Among the many changes which have occurred in life and education since the thirteenth century, that represented by Goethe "Faust" has special interest for us. The modern man attempts to live the life of the spirit outside the cloister. In this respect we are, as I have said, more like the ancient Athenians who formed themselves into little groups and attached themselves as disciples to their teacher for an indefinite period of time. We may easily imagine the students and friends of Socrates continuing with him for years their philosophical inquiries, while at the same time engaged in the conduct of their duties as citizens and house-

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