10:21 AM

“The Love of Learning” with Dr. George Harne Illuminates Sorely Needed Liberal Arts Path to Student Flourishing

What makes the University of St. Thomas at Houston unique in today’s world of higher education?

Perhaps the most important thing is its commitment to giving each of its students a coherent, integrated, and substantial introduction to liberal learning. This liberal learning in turn serves as the foundation of the university’s professional programs and orients students toward a Catholic vision of the human person and the world.

But what is liberal learning? For many, it is a “salad bar” of disconnected, irrelevant-at-best and trendy-at-worst courses that serve no higher purpose.

At the University of St. Thomas, liberal learning is something completely different. Through its nationally-recognized core, it offers students a comprehensive and integrated introduction to reality that leads them—to use Plato’s image—from a cave of received opinions and shadows into a world of wisdom. This is the “value proposition” that UST makes to its students and their families. As UST seeks “to form the mind, heart, and hands of its students for this life and the next,” liberal learning is the unique and indispensable soul of that formation.

The University’s Executive Dean of Arts & Sciences, Dr. George Harne, contributed to a well-received new book called "The Love of Learning: Seven Dialogues on the Liberal Arts” by Margarita A. Mooney. In her revealing conversations with Harne and six other leaders within the tradition of liberal learning, she explores various aspects of the topic. Together, the discussions shine an enriching light on “how the liberal education can make each of us more fully human — and our culture more humane.”

“My chapter explores how liberal education seeks to educate the whole person,” Harne explained, “how this is best carried out in a community ordered to that purpose and the important role that beauty plays.”

Harne hopes that anyone who has an interest in liberal learning will read the book. He emphasized that the discussion questions and reading lists that follow each chapter also serve as excellent resources for seminars and formation for an institution’s faculty and students.

“This book can help start a conversation among faculty, administrators and students about some of the most important things we can and must do to be educated and live a life of flourishing.”

To Harne’s pleasant surprise, "The Love of Learning" has attracted significant media attention and reviews. He suggests a possible explanation.

“There is a real sense that something is profoundly broken in how our country educates not only our young people but also how we educate ourselves as adults. As a society, but particularly in our schools, we seem obsessed with a therapeutic approach to education that aims almost exclusively at a narcissistic commitment to self-discovery, self-creation and self-satisfaction. This is a dead-end, cutoff from what education has been about for thousands of years. And it will only bring great harm to our students … The book provides another way forward … [It] raises questions and provides insights that have been at the back of people’s minds for a long time. It articulates these questions and topics and invites readers to consider the implications of true liberal learning for their own lives.”

In short, "The Love of Learning" is a timely and sorely needed breath of fresh air.

"The Love of Learning" is offered here through the Scala Foundation.