The Voice of Liberal Learning

Michael Oakeshott on Education

Edited by Timothy Fuller

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Out of Print

In a period of renewed controversy over the nature and direction of education, critics such as Allan Bloom and E.D. Hirsch decry the intellectual and moral poverty of today's society and propose new programs that will redefine our educational system. Some argue for the creation of canonical lists of great books that embody the core of true wisdom. Others call for a new emphasis on factual information and "relevance." Still others deny that there is any possible agreement on what students should study. So far, the prospect of finding a path between dogma and chaos has seemed remote.
In the midst of this apparent impasse there emerges the voice of Michael Oakeshott, distinguished Hobbes scholar, author of On Human Conduct, and arguable Britain's leading political philosopher of this century. In this volume, Timothy Fuller has brought together for the first time Oakeshott's major writings  on education. These remarkable essays distill a lifetime of reflection on the historic character of liberal learning and the strength of the Western university tradition; they are essential reading for anyone concerned about current debates on education and what it must learn from its past.
As Fuller points out in his introduction, Oakeshott opposes all schemes for quick "solutions" to educational "problems." He urges us instead to recover a clear vision of the purpose of teaching and learning. For Oakeshott, the goal of this engagement is not found in a checklist of things that every educated person should know, but in the fostering of intellectual and emotional maturity. Education, he believes, should be a many-sided conversation that requires a quiet self-confidence and genuine self-understanding on the part of both teacher and pupil.

"Through the efforts of Timothy Fuller, Oakeshott’s reflections on education, primarily higher education, are available. In his introduction, Fuller successfully uses his collection of six of Oakeshott’s essays, originally written between 1949 and 1975, as a testing ground for current recommendations on the educations on the education crisis. . . . Oakeshott’s essays should be prescribed for those who believe that our educational problems can be solved by monitoring instructional strategies and measuring how much more students know."—Erwin V. Johanningmeier, History of Education Quarterly

"It is good to be reminded of Oakeshott’s views."—R.F. Dearden, Journal of Educational Administration and History

"Timothy Fuller, in a useful introduction, shows that Oakeshott is not a clone of Hirsch or anyone else. For graduate students, faculty, and general readers."—Choice

"All the six pieces of Oakeshott’s writings collected here were written before 1975: the earliest in 1948; yet they ring with that contemporary relevance that all great writing seems to possess--and which is, perhaps, a defining characteristic of such writing. . . . Liberal educators in schools and universities will find much in this collection to stimulate them and to encourage them to continue the struggle. All the pieces are otherwise out of print (I believe) or difficult to obtain in their original form. For those of us already familiar with Oakeshott’s writing it is very convenient to have his main pieces on education collected in one work. For anyone else this would be a splendid introduction. . . . Timothy Fuller’s introduction is a fine piece of scene-setting and the book is very well produced. All educators would gain from reading it and so would any politician concerned with education."—Charles Bailey, Cambridge Journal of Education

"The book is a collection of elegantly written essays, usually lectures delivered for a particular occasion or other."—John Searle, The New York Review of Books

"[This] book illuminates the landscape of liberal learning with the brilliance that can only be employed by a man of humane wisdom."—Crisis

"Fuller has here performed the valuable task of bringing together Michael Oakeshott’s most important essays on education. Fuller also includes a helpful introduction which distinguishes Oakeshott’s views from those of Allan Bloom and E. D. Hirsch, and which situates Oakeshott’s reflections in the context of his basic philosophical commitments. These essays are interesting and important not only in their own right, but also for their illumination of themes present in Oakeshott’s longer works."—Terry Hall, Review of Metaphysics

"[An] invaluable . . . collection of writings."—Keith Brace, Birmingham Post

"[H]is sense of the good of a liberal education stands out as exceptional . . . the first in the present controversy to raise the discussion above an exchange of official platitudes and dissenting pieties. . . . This book may be read from start to finish as a protest against obeying the "circumstances" that lie waiting to take the blame . . . Oakeshott has the gift of exemplifying the virtues he inculcates. . . . :’patience, accuracy, economy, elegance, and style.’"—David Bromwich, The New Republic

"These essays, taken as a whole, are exemplary of Mr. Oakeshott’s style and spirit, an initiation themselves into the art of conversation which he sees as the center of our civilization. For anyone perplexed and concerned about the state of higher education, this book manages to convey the passion of a fierce defender of liberal education and the skepticism that makes liberal education possible in the first place. It is a mixture much needed now. Here at last is a conservative voice that can speak to modernity in a tome modernity can understand. And that, perhaps, is the supreme value of this book. We hear in it a clearer echo of our own muffled stammering: the sound of a relativist in pursuit of the true."—Andrew Sullivan, Wall Street Journal

"Wise and graceful writings on education . . . They have such a tight unity . . . and such an exact relevance to our present"—Ferdinand Mount, Telegraph

"Timothy Fuller has brought together a new collection of his writings on the subject which, he argues, have a poignant message for today’s reformers."—Economist

"A collection of lucid essays on the philosophy of education by the distinguished Hobbes scholar. The sweep is wide and offers no specific solutions to specific problems, but timeless calls for the fostering of maturity."—Stephen Walsh, Oxford Times

"The educational reflections of a modern philosopher . . . are presented in his lucid contributions to the philosophy of education."—Publishers Weekly

"Oakeshott’s work on education is lucid, witty, and timeless. It will be indispensable to any serious course on the philosophy of education."—Kenneth Minogue, professor of politics, London School of Economics
ISBN: 9780300047530
Publication Date: July 25, 1990
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