Online ISSN : 2187-5278
Print ISSN : 0387-3161
ISSN-L : 0387-3161
Libeal Education and General Education: Implications of the Experience of History of Higher Education in the United States
Yoshimitsu Matsuura
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1999 Volume 66 Issue 4 Pages 417-426


This paper tries to clarify the concepts of "liberal education" and "general education, " and the relation between them in the history of American higher education so that we can retrieve some suggestions for reconsidering recent controversial issues related to liberal and general education in Japanese colleges and universities. In order to accomplish the purpose of this study, the exploration of the history and current reforms at the College of the University of Chicago has been chosen as a case study. In 1999, the College began to reform its undergraduate curriculum which was last revised in 1984, and there has been a great deal of disagreement over the reform because Chicago's traditional Common Core courses are to be reduced and free electives are to be increased in the new proposed curriculum. In addition, the College had a unique experience related to experimental reforms to its curriculum and organization during Robert Maynard Hutchin's tenure as president and chancellor (1929-1951), though the University of Chicago has been a major research university in the United States from its establishment to present. Those who want to preserve the traditions of liberal education at "Hutchins College" of the University of Chicago have criticized the undergraduate College curricular reforms of 1999. The reforms, however, imply that a new conception of liberal education in a multi-cultural society should be reconstructed as one which includes a common core general education, a specialized and concentrated area of discipline and students' independent study outside the classroom and even their own country. I believe that the University of Chicago reform provides us with a new framework for reference points in reconstructing conceptions of liberal and general education in Japanese higher education. The discussion of this paper will proceed as follows. First, I will point out that Japanese higher education has confused the concepts of liberal education and general education in the United States which were the typical models of the new system of Japanese higher education after World War IF. It has especially been misunderstood that liberal education and specialized undergraduate education are inevitably opposed to each other. This does not coincide with 1: he original concept of liberal education in the United State's. Secondly, I will present the history of the idea of liberal education, in particular the two traditions of "orators" and "philosophers, " according to Bruce A. Kimball. The history of liberal education is a series of debates between the "artes liberates ideal" of orators and "liberal-free idea" of philosophers, and now the construction of an integrated ideal between them is required. Third, I will examine the curricular revision of 1999 and the history of experimental reforms at the College of the University of Chicago. The liberal education at the College consists of a common core general education., specialized concentration and free electives, and the efforts that are made to extend educational activities outside the classroom and campus. It is an endeavor to integrate the "artes liberates ideal" and the "liberal-free id<cal" of liberal education. Finally, I will conclude that Japanese higher education has to reconstruct a new concept of liberal undergraduate education that does not exclude specialized studies and extra-curricular activities.

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