Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date


Department 1



Book Summary: Education is a field sometimes beset by theories-of-the-day and with easy panaceas that overpromise the degree to which they can alleviate pressing educational problems. The two-volume Encyclopedia of Educational Theory and Philosophy introduces readers to theories that have stood the test of time and those that have provided the historical foundation for the best of contemporary educational theory and practice. Drawing together a team of international scholars, this invaluable reference examines the global landscape of all the key theories and the theorists behind them and presents them in the context needed to understand their strengths and weaknesses. In addition to interpretations of long-established theories, this work offers essays on cutting-edge research and concise, to-the-point definitions of key concepts, ideas, schools, and figures.

Chapter Summary: Liberal education comprises a tradition of educational theory and practice that connects the intrinsic value of learning with the aim of living a cultures and flourishing life. First articulated by educators in ancient Greece and Rome, liberal education has been prominent and often dominant in Western schooling through the centuries. It has evolved from a type of education prescribed for male aristocrats to one that is frequently seen as fundamental, even essential, for everyone - and especially for responsible, democratic citizens. Despite its record as a wellspring of intellectual life and culture, both its meaning and its value have frequently been disputed; its history displays competing interpretations, a cluster of rationales, evolving curricula and pedagogy, and a diversity of educational programs mounted by a succession of institutional forms. After identifying potential conceptual confusions, this entry discusses various conceptions and criticisms of liberal education. [excerpt]