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November 16, 2022

Dr. Schlect Contributes to New Journal on Classical Education

Dr. Christopher Schlect, Senior Fellow of History at New Saint Andrews College, has contributed an article to a new academic journal called Principia: A Journal of Classical Education.

Schlect’s article, titled “What is a Liberal Art?” looks closely at the term and its usage among educators.  Schlect points to the example of University of Texas, which includes a wide variety of disciplines in its College of Liberal Arts including African and African Diaspora Studies, American Studies, Asian Cultures and Languages, Mexican American and Latina/Latino Studies, Women and Gender Studies, and more. What is it about these fields that makes them liberal arts? We who are involved in the recovery of Classical Education may sneer at the loose way big-box-store universities use the term “Liberal Art,” yet we do not use the term carefully ourselves.

Schlect works through the history of the term as used in the ancient world, medieval world, and the modern world. Then, following Aristotle, he concentrates on the broader term “art.” “An art,”  says Schlect, “joins reason to practice in order to produce something. Thus, art is productive reason.”

In this discussion, he notes the importance for the arts to have a moral foundation. He says, “For the Christian, then, every human endeavor—including every artistic endeavor—is, fundamentally, an exercise of service and love offered up to God.“

Now Schlect turns to Liberal Arts. He explains that the term liberal is about the freedom offered by this course of study. He says this is not about freedom from the material world but rather about the freedom of the person to know how to learn and grow. He says, “The liberally educated person is equipped to obtain knowledge on his own.” 

Schlect summarizes this point saying, “Thus a liberally educated individual enjoys a unique kind of freedom—a freedom from teachers—which enables him to serve others freely: originally and not derivatively. Thus he is equipped to lead and to shape the culture he inhabits.” 

Schlect argues that this freedom is not for individual autonomy but rather a freedom to learn from all the various sources of knowledge in God’s world. He writes, “His teachers include the scholars he hears at conferences or meets with over coffee. A liberally educated person is equipped to learn even from his own students, and from young children, just as he learns from other sources.” 

Principia is a peer-reviewed scholarly journal, hosted by Baylor University. Its first issue was published on Oct 18, 2022. Brian A. Williams is the general editor of the project.