The Archimedes palimpsest owned by the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore MD. The 10th century copy of a treatise by Archimedes was overwritten in the 13th century with a religious text.
My last blog posting left unstated its premise –that liberal education is a palimpsest. Underneath many of the texts and documents we study is another narrative -- the story of gradually emerging, two steps forward one step back human freedom. The texts sometimes seem difficult for us to comprehend, and what’s below them is often hard to detect. But we won’t fully understand either unless we keep both in view. That’s most obviously true of the texts I mentioned in the “Not So Innocent Abroad” blog post -- classical texts relating to the emergence of western political thought, Solon, Herodotus, Thucydides, Plato ..
Yes, Plato, too. I had some fun with Plato and freedom in a piece called “Liberal Education: Liberating Education”. It’s at http://www.wrobertconnor.com/liberal-education-liberating-education.html
Now let me come back to that theme and put it more bluntly: We won’t fully understand these classical texts and their modern successors unless we bring into focus the struggle for political freedom – and vice versa: That still unfolding story of human freedom can’t be fully understood without these texts.
More broadly, classical texts in general are best seen, I believe, within a narrative that comprises different types of freedom, political, intellectual, theological, economic, racial, sexual. And an education based on the classical tradition, a true liberal education, is a liberating education. It has freedom at its core and as its goal.
That’s why statist regimes in China and elsewhere will distrust liberal education, and why it is so important that their citizens – and ours –have access to it.