Liberal Arts for Teachers

Liberal Arts for Teachers seeks to make a strategic intervention in the teaching and learning of 5-16 year olds over one year. Through inspiring curiosity about the universe and life within it, it hopes to contribute to the work being done in schools to deepen children’s relation to education and so to embed the question of meaning in both teaching and learning. It believes, in particular, that a modern liberal arts approach to meaning will help prepare young people to become mature citizens; responsible for themselves and for the planet, thoughtful in relation to the problems and dilemmas of freedom and truth in the world, and human in the face of the inhuman, capable of finding integrity or vocation in the work they do.

The project

Central to the vision of education for its own sake are its teachers, those people who inspire a love of learning in others, whose job it is, most importantly, to try and understand what our questions and experiences mean. The Liberal Arts programme at Winchester has made links with some exceptional educators and schools in order that we can develop the Liberal Arts for Teachers project with the central aim of taking the ‘big questions’ of liberal arts concerning freedom, truth (God) and the natural universe to schools.

Part of the objective is to make available for teachers and student teachers a variety of philosophical material that will speak to some of the questions and difficulties that we face as human beings in the world today. One of the ways it will do this through a ‘core texts’ or ‘core ideas’ approach to learning. At the primary school level, for example, this involves activities that explore ideas in Plato, Aristotle or Galileo. At secondary school level greater emphasis is placed on the reading of extracts from core texts such as Plato, Augustine and Rousseau or listening to the works of Mozart or Beethoven in conjunction with seminar discussions. In addition, a number of theatre workshops have been developed to enhance and extend this learning.

The class-based activities and workshops will be undertaken with the goal of establishing an online educational resource base for continued school engagement with the liberal arts. The pilot study involved a small number of our own students visiting the schools with tutors twice over one year and inviting teachers and students from participating schools to spend time with us at the University in a series of seminars and workshops. The programme will sustain these visits each year with new groups of students interested in the relation between philosophy and education as a way of life.

We hope that Liberal Arts for Teachers can challenge the often dispiriting experience of teaching with something humanistic, spiritual, political and uplifting. In this way it is a distinctive project in the UK which seeks to nurture the idea of education for its own sake, and of teaching as the theory and practice of such education.