Liberal Arts for Teachers
Vision and Values
To inspire interest in teaching as a career through a liberal arts experience
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 Liberal Arts at Winchester we have made 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 us inviting students and teachers to spend time with us at the University.
To re-conceptualise, politically and spiritually, the idea of teaching as the encounter of freedom (liberales) and discipline (artes)
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. Liberal Arts and the University of Winchester are trying to do their bit to open up opportunities for groups that remain under-represented in Universities. Liberal Arts is trying to show that what is educational about a 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.
To inspire the recognition of teaching as a vocation
The term vocation carries two meanings. Vocation is work, and vocation is a calling to work. A teacher is a remarkable position of being able to live both of these educationally. Her paid work is to teach others, and her vocation is to learn about herself from herself. If she learns about herself while teaching others, she will be a teacher and a student all the time. Perhaps this is what a vocation for education looks like… the struggle to know thyself while being a teacher of others. Perhaps we can say that we experience vocation as a struggle between the inner life (the soul, if you like) and the outer life (social and political life). We know that currently the culture of education is dominated by measurement. But that should not mean that aspiring teachers are put off. Negating and preserving this culture can be part of the struggle of the teacher. The teacher will have to test her pupils… but she can also do so much more as well… not least reminding them that tests are not everything! It is still possible for teachers to put meaning above measure, reticence above reward, service above self, and faith in education above the forces that reduce education to the merely quantitative. Society needs teachers who understand education as a way of life; who know vocation; who can not only meet the demands of OFSTED, but transform those demands by means of the added values that they bring to their pupils; in short, we all need teachers who have faith in education.
To retrieve teaching as a profound way of life
At its heart, this idea of vocation is a form of public service, of dedicating one’s life to improving the lives of others, sometimes especially those who start life with fewer opportunities and advantages than others. In this sense, teaching as a vocation is political and personal, and for some, deeply spiritual, working for a better world in one’s own small way and in one’s own small part of the world. And so our liberal arts education seeks to retrieve the vocation of teaching in and as a way of life.