- To inspire interest in teaching as a career through a liberal arts experience
- To reconceptualise, politically and spiritually, the idea of teaching as the encounter of freedom (liberales) and discipline (artes)
- To inspire the recognition of teaching as a vocation
- To retrieve teaching as a profound way of life
From its inception over 2,000 years ago, Liberal Arts has championed the idea that education is something that can be enjoyed for its own sake. Central to this are its teachers who can inspire this love of learning in others. In Modern Liberal Arts at Winchester we are trying to make links with some exceptional educators and schools so that we can learn from each other about what liberal arts might be able to contribute to the school curriculum and the education of young people. This involves our own students visiting the schools, and MLA inviting students and teachers to spend time with us at the University.
Universities enjoy a privileged position within society. People who attend university have always enjoyed many benefits and advantages in doing so, and traditionally liberal arts been one of the most elitist higher education degrees. But things are changing. MLA and the University of Winchester are trying to do their bit to open up opportunities for groups that remain under-represented in Universities. Modern Liberal Arts is trying to show that what is educational about liberal arts education no longer need be elitist. If its central concern is with the question of freedom then this is relevant to everyone, not just the few. Even more importantly perhaps, we hope to show how, even with all the pressures that accompany tests and examinations, there is still a vision of education that believes it is important for its own sake, and that learning is the most important thing that all human beings do.
This vision complements the values driven higher education the University of Winchester stands for.
The University states that its mission is ‘to educate, to advance knowledge and to serve the common good’. Its ideals are ‘freedom, justice, truth, human rights and collective effort for the common good’ which it grounds in the following values: intellectual freedom, social justice, diversity, spirituality, individuals matter and creativity.
Similar ideals (from the US perspective) underpin Stephen Mucher’s concern for ‘The Liberal Arts Role in Teacher Education’ (2014), paraphrased below:
When the 20th-century university became distracted by new purposes and research imperatives, the emergent field of “Teacher Education” soon separated itself from the liberal arts by promoting an increasingly technical conception of teaching…
But the more teaching is dissected, the less attractive the profession becomes for graduates who might otherwise consider it a viable and meaningful career option… these reductionist policy trends obscure something that humanists care deeply about — the enduring beauty of teaching and learning…
This has had a disproportionately negative impact in poorer urban communities. The type of liberally educated teacher who once commonly taught in economically diverse public schools now migrates toward private institutions or to affluent suburbs. Meanwhile, policies that emphasize vocational “readiness” — at the expense of curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking — communicate a dispiriting message… discouraging bright, service-minded college graduates from considering teaching as a meaningful lifelong pursuit… Many of the more insightful and talented recruits quickly leave teaching for careers that more readily reward their capacity for independent thought and imagination…
Liberal Arts at Winchester can challenge this dispiriting image of a teaching career with something humanistic, spiritual, political and uplifting. Winchester can be distinctive in using liberal arts to nurture the idea of education for its own sake, and of teaching as the theory and practice of such education.