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With refreshing eloquence, James O. Freedman sets down the American ideals that have informed his life as an intellectual, a law professor, and a college and university president. He examines the content and character of liberal education, discusses the importance of letters and learning in forming his own life and values, and explores how the lessons and the habits of mind instilled by a liberal education can give direction and meaning to one's life. He offers a stirring defense of affirmative action in higher education. And he describes how, in the midst of undergoing chemotherapy for cancer, liberal education helped him in that most human of desires—the yearning to make order and sense out of his experience.
Part intellectual biography and part examination of the world of higher education, Idealism and Liberal Education is a quintessentially American book, animated by a confidence that reason, knowledge, idealism, and the better angels of our natures will further human progress.
Freedman offers, as models for shaping one's life, profiles of some of his heroes—Thurgood Marshall, Alexander M. Bickel, Václav Havel, Louis D. Brandeis, Felix Frankfurter, Hugo L. Black, Flannery O'Connor, Eudora Welty, George Orwell, Edmund Wilson, Martin Luther King, Jr., George F. Kennan, Ralph J. Bunche, and Harry S Truman.
This volume speaks to all Americans who are drawn to the power of liberal education and democratic citizenship and who yearn for the inspiration to lead thoughtful, committed lives.
Winner: Association for American Colleges and Universities' 1997 Frederic W. Ness Book Award