Preserving The Lifeworld, Restoring the Public Sphere, Renewing Higher Education
By Paul Lakeland

As I write, it's almost September again, and next week I'll meet my students, over a hundred undergraduates. Half of them will be first-year students making the transition from high school to college, from home to away-from-home. The same process is going on across the country, a vast number of young people entering a new phase in their lives and their education. What will we do for and to them, and what should we expect to be doing? Of course, they will come to acquire vast amounts of information, they will hone skills that they possess, and learn new ones. They will become more technically proficient in a host of ways. But as college students, they have reached a point in their lives at which they should be ready to put their world into perspective, to examine it critically and-as Dostoevsky might say-to take an attitude toward it. Forming and refining that attitude requires the cultivation of critical skills, the acquisition of real information about our society, and the opportunity to let the two confront one another. This is probably the single biggest responsibility of college education, and we do not do it very well.

Developing a critical knowledge of society, and an informed attitude towards it, may not be what most of my new students would have placed high on their list of reasons for attending college. What, after all, have they been led to expect? In the vast majority of cases, parents, guidance counselors, peers and admissions counselors encourage choosing a college for career prospects. of course, there is nothing wrong with expecting a college education to begin to equip you for a successful professional life. But this is not the sole or even the most important role of undergraduate education, which ultimately has less to do with ensuring success and more to do with increasing the chances of happiness. But once again, what does society tell our young people about how to recognize happiness? Usually, it teaches them to look for the signs of success and to account them as indicators of happiness If success is the opposite of unfulfilled potential, then fine. But if failure is understood as the absence of substantial material rewards, then something is sadly wrong.

How shall we try to understand these interlocking concerns and tensions? My general position is that the ills of our modern world are reflected in the ills of our educational system, specifically in undergraduate education, and that-conversely-the educational malaise reinforces social ills, specifically by failing to educate students to pay responsible attention to the quality of our social life. Much of what passes even for good education is devoted only to technical proficiency in the most general sense-not only in calculus and computers, but also in French and composition-divorced from any attention to the meaning of that learning in a wider social context. As I look at my students, it seems to me that by and large we are successful at equipping them technically or professionally. Many reach a relatively high level of accomplishment in their chosen major field of study. But American undergraduate education in general does a far less satisfactory job in making the connections between personal practice and the quality of social life. Yet this is where the social responsibility of higher education lies. And it is this "making connections" that I have in mind-not some rigid or heavy-handed dispensing of ethical positions-when I write about the moral role of education.

Against this general background, I want to make two rather more specific points. The first is that our society is in a perilous situation if college-educated people are not willing and able to play a significant role in what I shall call the discourse of public life. For a host of reasons, some of which will be discussed below, professionals have become private persons, highly specialized; most cultivate their particular gardens, leaving public life to the politicians. Because this endangers social freedom and humaneness, a way must be found to restore the sense of a "public sphere" in which may occur dialogue-aimed at action-about the priorities and directions of society. Second, this decline in attention to public life is partly the fault of education, college education in particular. The problem can be overcome only through educational reform that stresses the importance of argument marked by reasoned discourse, not only as a fundamental critical skill, but also, when rightly conceived, as the principal instrument of moral education.

Frankl, Freire, Habermas

Viktor Frankl, one of the mid-century's great cultural critics, remains helpful in naming the problem we face.[1] Almost half a century ago he suggested that cultural collapse had led to the demise of that "will to meaning" that he and his fellow existential psychoanalysts identified as the core motivating factor in distinctively human activity. In the "existential vacuum" left in the wake of cultural decline, human beings turned to ersatz absolutes-a "will to power" or "will to pleasure"-rather than to the hard challenge of assuming personal responsibility for finding their own will to meaning. Set adrift in this way, said Frankl, people determined their conduct through conformity either to what someone else told them to do, or to what everyone else was doing.

While Frankl's analysis remains on the whole surprisingly accurate, he was guilty, like most existentialist thinkers, of over stressing the individual at the expense of the community. Since his time, the will to power and the will to pleasure have become so structurally entrenched in society, have been erected so successfully into a new popular culture (a term he did not use), that the proposal to overcome these pressures by "taking responsibility" seems glib and simplistic. This subtle form of structural oppression needs to be met with a suitable counter force, itself structural rather than merely ad hoc or opportunistic. Faced with a social pathology even more intense than Frankl envisaged, modern human beings need to enlist the help of a truly critical theory that is action-directed.

The work of Paulo Freire is a second resource to which we can turn for help.[2] Freire first came to prominence in his native Brazil, a country from which he was later expelled, when he developed adult literacy programs that simultaneously raised the level of their students' political awareness. The National Security State that flourished in Brazil from 1964 onwards did not take kindly to "conscientization," which means helping the education process to occur in such a way that the learners are able to move from being objects or victims of history, to being its subjects. In more recent years, Freire has generalized his theories of "liberating education"-with liberating used as both participle and adjective-to be applicable universally and at every level of the educational process.[3]

Freire's contribution is to make clear the link between educational reform and social criticism. Arguing that an educational system is the product of society intent upon its own reproduction, he calls for an education that serves the dialectically opposed function of transforming society; and here "liberating education" comes into play. Liberating education operates through a dialogical method, stressing the democratic discourse of small-group discussion, downplaying (though not eliminating) the traditional lecture format of some secondary and much college teaching. In traditional education, he says, students read the words: in liberating education they read the world. Alternatively, we might say, they are progressively freed from their entrapment in what, borrowing from Antonio Gramsci, we might call the hegemonic discourse of institutional education. Obviously, if society is not all that democratic, and is bent upon its own reproduction through the educational process, it will prefer an educational method that encourages the passive absorption of knowledge, attitudes, and patterns of socialization, rather than one that rewards a reflexive critique of these attitudes and patterns or that stresses the individual's own responsibility to participate actively in the accumulation of knowledge.

Like Frankl, Freire has much to offer, and like Frankl, he needs to be supplemented. If Frankl was too individualistic, Freire suffers somewhat from an insufficiently thematized critical theory. Although his Marxist roots are obvious enough, he does not spell out in detail the peculiar pathology of monopoly capitalist society in the developed world. We need to supplement both Frankl and Freire with a social theory that puts the individual in context and convincingly depicts the world in which the dialogical process of liberating education needs to be conducted. Just such a resource is available, I believe, in the communicative action theory of Jurgen Habermas.

Habermas, then, is our third ally and resource. He describes the pathology of life in late capitalist societies as the "colonization of the lifeworld by the system,"[4] and vests the hope of movement toward a newly humane and democratic society in the "transformation of the public sphere."[5] The former phrase expresses the conviction that distinctly human patterns of communication and interaction, which are in principle open and even emancipatory, are under threat, progressively squeezed to the margins of communal life by the more instrumental or manipulative model of interactions appropriate to technology or to impersonal systems. By "the public sphere," Habermas means first the empirically discerned historical phenomenon of a community of discourse in which rational discussion of matters of social and political import took place, and influenced the formation of public policy. Secondly, he uses the term to point toward the (perhaps counterfactual) possibility of creating something today that would serve to protect the lifeworld from the depredations of the system or, more simply expressed, to preserve democracy in late capitalist society.

Habermas's view is not dissimilar to Frankl's. What Frankl saw epitomized by the Nazi "final solution," namely, the systematic application of technology to eradicate the sense of personal identity, Habermas sees as the logic of late capitalist, national security, consumerist society. But where Frankl looks to inner spiritual resources to defeat these annihilating pressures, Habermas turns to the dynamics of the speech-act. By so doing, incidentally, he strengthens Freire's somewhat unfocused appeal to the "dialogical method" and shows why it is so potentially revolutionary.

For Habermas, the attempt to communicate directly with other human beings rests on a set of mutual assumptions: there is something comprehensible to be heard; the speaker is sincere; the speaker seeks truth; the hearer will listen; and so on. Even someone who attempts to deceive another can only hope to do so because the hearer will assume the speaker is acting according to the rules of open communication. Thus, the communication community is oriented in principle towards the "ideal speech situation," that is, a context of distortion-free discourse in which all have equal access to the conversation, and all seek consensus on norms for action. Though such an ideal speech situation may never exist, it operates regulatively to draw communication onward. And what is assumed about the importance of truthfulness and sincerity, and about the dignity of other speakers and hearers, makes communication, which is after all the fundamental structure of human sociality, intrinsically emancipatory. The pathologies of personal, communal, and political life become interpretable in terms of "systematically distorted communication," and overcoming them becomes a matter of restoring the contexts in which communicative praxis can occur.

Seeking an historical example of the kind of communication community Habermas describes leads us back to his earlier notion of the public sphere. Now we have to be very careful how we handle this idea, since in most if not all of its incarnations to date it has worked in elitist, chauvinistic, and even xenophobic ways, to buttress a social order and to exclude the voice of the other. Nevertheless, the logic and dynamics of the public sphere contain important hints about how to go about the rehabilitation both of society and of undergraduate education. We can best grasp what Habermas means by the public sphere by thinking first of a small world, a civil society of the past which had at its center a rational-critical civil discourse in which all the educated participated. Though this public sphere may not have been nearly as widespread as some would like us to believe, from the seventeenth century onwards it flourished in at least some places, and through it private persons engaged in a kind of ongoing national argument to determine appropriate decisions for the conduct of public policy. While Athens might have been the original model, the three thousand London coffee-houses of the early eighteenth century, with their attendant journals of opinion, are more revealing examples. The table societies of Germany and the salons of France provide further illustrations. All the educated (almost all men, of course) were involved (or thought they were) in the formation of a national consensus on important issues. The critical factor--and it is probably this which can be carried over to our own day--was that the quality of the reasoning, the argumentation--and not the status of the arguers--determined any conclusions. Of course, if all those able to join in the argument were white men of much the same social class, maintaining civility and openness was not all that challenging a task. Where such a public sphere existed, however, with all its faults, it had some virtue, and that virtue could have evolved into a more truly public discourse. For a number of reasons this did not happen.


The Shriveling of the Public Sphere

How did we get from a democratic society in which the citizens--no matter how small a minority of the total community they constituted--truly felt they owned it, to one in which so many are alienated from the political process? One reason is that in the earlier years the expansion of citizenship and the subsequent increase in educational opportunities did not lead to the admission of these newly educated classes into the dialogue. Educational reform and improvement in the standard of living took place within European societies whose class, gender, and race-based social constraints underwent no serious change; a little learning did not a gentleman make. Another, more recent reason is that democratization was accompanied by capitalization, so that the passive consumption of culture and commodities with its attendant apolitical sociability was the path preferred by, or at least open to, the vast majority. In other words, there are just a lot more citizens; but many of these citizens are the victims of structural oppression, and all are lured by the blandishments of material ease. Again, to return to Habermas's forms of expression, all this amounts to the progressive colonization of the lifeworld by the system.

If, in the past two hundred years, the public sphere has so completely failed to fulfill its promise as a market-place for the discourse of a free society, the project must be to restore it through the revival of true communicative action, that is, to persuade people to talk to one another with respect, to listen fairly, to argue cleanly, and to move towards consensus on norms for action. That way lies a democratic future. Any other way leads to one or another form of totalitarianism, including the totalitarianism of mass consumption culture whose victims are so easily persuaded to pursue its spurious salvation and ersatz heaven. However, the character of our modern world requires that steps taken to transform the public sphere respect and reflect the complexity of modern society. We are not just so many individuals sorted into different social classes. We are rather members of a number of sub-groups, perhaps defined by race, class, gender or religion, as well as members of the larger body politic. What will be needed is a confluence of these autonomous publics or distinct interest groups coming together in common concern for the preservation of democratic life. The public sphere will have to include many more voices than it did in the time of Samuel Johnson, and the consensus on social goods may seem even more elusive; but the dynamics of the process, so argues Habermas, will help ensure the preservation of a human society.

This late twentieth-century world possesses further characteristics that distinguish it from Athens, or Dr. Johnson's London. It is, as we have already noted, profoundly multicultural, and monocultural societies can be restored only by acts of violence. Second, in such a world societies have a tendency to understand themselves primarily as systems, and to apply systems-theory to the elucidation of their concerns and the solution of their problems. Thus they assert instrumental action as paradigmatic, consigning the specifically human communicative action to a secondary role. Third, societies show an extraordinary degree of professionalization (which some see as fragmentation) of social life. Fourth, they seem to prize technical expertise over moral influence. Finally, they put their faith in science and technology, rather than in some less tangible medium of meaning. The multicultural complexion of the modern world is a fact that could not be undone, even if it were desirable to do so. But the other four characteristics are much less firmly entrenched. This flexibility is fortunate, since the preservation of democracy in our world is going to require some adjustment in the degree to which the world is seen as system. In addition to calling for a new kind of harmony carved out of a wider participation of autonomous publics (racial, gender-based, sexual orientation-based, and so on), we need to redress the balance between expertise and influence and to look beyond the scientism of the machine age. Without these changes, the world will incline to making the human person an instrument of society. When that happens, the distinctively human activities of caring, thinking, and creating are either marginalized, relegated to some domestic privacy, or put to the service of the system. Is it not the case that today the vast majority of our citizens find their true human fulfillment at those times when they are not engaged as "productive members of society"? (Ask a group of students some time what they are really fascinated by, and then ask them what they expect to be their career directions, and note the wide discrepancies.) If so, can we not trace a connection between this unfortunate fact and the decline of "civic virtue," the rise of a taboo-morality ("If I don't get caught, it's OK") that seems increasingly to govern public life, and the combination of apathy and cynicism which most Americans reserve for reflection upon the political process?

Since educational institutions are a part of society, they mirror the pathology of the wider world's lifeworld/system relationship. Educational institutions have adopted organizational models that ape the corporate world, when their raison d'etre should be entirely other.[6] The undergraduate college in particular ought to exist to help its students reach their full human potential, not only intellectually, but also as caring and responsible members of a humane society. The purpose of business is to make money, and while business ought to strive to do so in an ethically responsible fashion, moral lapses do not contradict its essential purposes. But the central role of the educational institution is moral, and when its organizational imperatives are derived predominantly from the corporate culture, it contradicts its mission. To revert to Freire's language, education as mere social reproduction is immoral.

Let me return to those new students, looking for something from their college careers. If they find that the educational community they have entered is so largely patterned on the imperatives of the "real" world of corporate culture, when they see success and achievement measured on the same scale employed in the wider world, how can they gain the critical perspective that they will need to act as citizens? Even more difficult, how can they be shown that, for the sake of happiness, they do in fact need to challenge and to be relatively and periodically uncomfortable with this world and its blandishments? They desperately require a critical, reflective outlook on this world precisely because they will spend their lives in it. There is nothing wrong with business, finance, marketing, publishing, advertising, "human resource management," and the like as career directions, but they are not in themselves humane disciplines. They are unable to encourage their practitioners to make connections between personal fulfillment and the quality of social life. The educational institution must compensate for this deficiency, both in what it says and in what it does.

Arguing for the Lifeworld

The direct educational mission of the college, that which is carried out in the classroom, too frequently reflects an instrumental rather than communicative praxis. Colleges and universities have succumbed in large measure to an overemphasis on specialization, even at the undergraduate level, where it is least defensible. This happens wherever students are encouraged to see their general education as of secondary importance compared to "major" courses. Colleges have often tended to provide knowledge on a consumerist model while failing to inculcate the wisdom that can make the knowledge useful and beneficial to self and society. All institutions are guilty of this when they stress the accumulation of a certain number of credits at a certain grade-point average, with a particular distribution of courses, rather than counsel and guide students to build their individual educational profiles holistically. The question that the student should be asked to keep in mind is this: how can I prepare myself to place my personal career responsibly in the context of the society in which I shall live? Our colleges at present are producing graduates more skilled in the manipulation of the present order than in its critique. And so they have contributed to the problem they exist to solve--the peculiarly subtle form of the threat to civilized human life which the structures of late capitalist life represent.

The social consequences of the curricular ills I have listed are easy to see: the culture of college is fragmented, the notion of professionalization in some narrow skill is dominant, and the vast majority of students are led to believe that the most important part of their education is what is in fact nothing more than training in the effective manipulation of their future professional environment. The pursuit of wisdom, truth, justice, and inquiry is the preserve of a general education that might more truly be renamed "leisure studies," for all the significance it is going to have in students' lives. Thus the social structures of society as system that I outlined earlier are anticipated in college life. Socialization into the system is achieved, and another generation of bored technocrats is produced. The life of the mind fades away.

The primary educational challenge is to create an environment distinguished by a commitment to systematically undistorted communication directed to achieving consensus. Whether the method used is Habermas's, or Freire's, or the Quakers' doesn't matter. What does matter is placing severe limits on the systems model of understanding or running an institution, and elevating the "lifeworld model." Colleges are composed of people, not tools, and are better understood as living entities than as dead machines. True, colleges use tools, but only to serve the human purpose of a happy life in a just world.

To be more specific: what sorts of characteristics would distinguish a college that took seriously its social and educational responsibilities, analyzing them along the lines of Habermas's critical theory? Organizationally, one would expect the following: a drastic curtailment of hierarchical notions of authority and decision-making, in favor of dialogue and consensus; the elimination of "corporate-culture" styles in the utilization of space, labor-practices, and even the look and feel of administrative units of the institution; self-government rather than management wherever possible; a Board of Trustees on which moral leaders are as prominent as corporate executives; a community which "looks like America" in terms of gender and racial make-up, but doesn't look like America in terms of how the races and genders are placed in the hierarchy; a clearly expressed institutional commitment to justice that is employed as a reflexive critique of the institution. In curricular terms, one would expect the following: an institutional stress on the importance of general education, relative to "major" preparation; small classes, whatever the subject, giving intensive attention to the quality of reasoning in the process of argumentation, or classes made small by breaking them into small groups; experiential learning, if it is preceded by careful preparation that includes acquiring the skills of social analysis, and followed by thorough reflection of an academically rigorous character. Student life should be distinguished in the following ways: the dismantling of top-down models of student-government, which only mirror the malaise of government in general, and their replacement by a grassroots structure of self-government and decision-making that stresses accountability and responsibility; active and substantial student involvement in ongoing curricular review; in other words, a serious attempt on the part of students themselves to create an alternative and truer form of democracy to the one the nation currently possesses.

The single biggest weakness in the ethos of undergraduate education today is a lack of critical capacity and sensitivity. While institutional reorganization and metanoia can address the structural problems that encourage this, in purely educational terms we need to build a curriculum around the notion of argument. Argument does not mean verbal fisticuffs or power-plays of rhetoric and demagoguery. It is simply that particular form of conversation in which something is at stake. Making argument our organizing principle implies an equal commitment to the presuppositions for successful dialogue. We-students, teachers, administrators-should always try to speak intelligibly. We should speak sincerely. We should intend to communicate something. And we should grant our conversation partner(s) equal access to the dialogue: in other words, we should listen as well as we speak. Argument, properly conducted, is moral education. Conversation becomes argument when, as Habermas would say, there is a challenge to validity claims and the consequent need for their "discursive redemption." English-speaking peoples might prefer to say that conversation becomes argument when the speaker's position is challenged and s/he must defend it. This defense takes the form of a re-examination of the data, a reassessment of the data, a reconsideration of my motivations, and a renewed attempt to communicate clearly to the other the position I want to uphold. The process continues indefinitely; the objective, one that may never be reached, is consensus.

If the college curriculum is to be socially responsible, it must move the students beyond passive reception of knowledge and skills needed merely to reproduce society, to the point where they can actively and critically appropriate the skills and knowledge that will transform them from being objects (i.e., victims) of the social system to being subjects of their own history. Education must stress social analysis, it must include serious attention to the realities of hermeneutics, ideology, and rhetoric. It must uncover and name those biases of class, race, and gender that are fundamental to our social system. And, most difficult of all, it must do all this by promoting the conscientization of the students, not by stuffing their heads with the personal beliefs (or prejudices) of the teacher or the worn-out rhetoric of some discredited political vocabulary. This again is where argument comes in.[7] As I said earlier, argument properly conducted is moral education. Put another way, the truth will out.

The late Ignacio Ellacuria, S.J., one of the martyred Jesuits of El Salvador, once said that at the beginning of each class he taught he would ask himself: "What does the subject of this class have to do with life in El Salvador today?" If he could not answer the question, he could not teach the class. He taught sociology, however; the theoretical mathematician or physicist is going to have to work harder to produce an answer to such a question. At the same time, if we stress the paramount importance of argument as the process through which students will learn to make connections, mathematicians and natural scientists may in reality have a distinct advantage. What is experimentation if not argument? What is problem-solving if not a questioning and a listening to the particular conundrum? In Habermas's words it is even clearer: argument is "the discursive redemption of validity-claims." I don't want to suggest that courses in these fields are already built around the notion of argument and they need do nothing they are not already doing. But there is a distinctively scientific form of discourse that subtly builds a mental discipline that can then be transferred, given the will, to questions of the social role of the scientific endeavor, or the gender or cultural bias of scientific paradigms. So we can talk about the "moral role" of such disciplines without raising hackles. Physics or mathematics or chemistry or biology play out that role not only or even so much when they depart from experiment and observation to ask relatively crude questions about the ethics of their disciplines, as when they demand of their students that the precise skills they learn within these fields be brought to bear upon the questions of connections between individual life and society, not compartmentalized in some "scientific" realm of professional life or career.

With argument as the central methodological principle, the curriculum must also be grounded. The best learning is situated learning. At one level, this has never been difficult for the experimental sciences to achieve. Linguists have long known that classroom conversation is no substitute for exposure to the foreign culture itself. Historians and social scientists can certainly concretize their study (in research projects and local history, for example). Even the more purely cerebral work of mathematics, philosophy, theology, or literary criticism can and should be connected to concrete realities. But the harder task is the political grounding of education. How can we make sure that reading the word is also reading the world? Only, it seems to me, by insisting on the integrity of the educational process. Whatever teachers do in the classroom, the values of the college community as they are reflected in its structures and its day-to-day conduct will be those its students will acquire. Hence, it is important to ensure that the values we wish to teach are incarnated in the way we operate in the world. And the values we wish to teach come through, above all, in the kinds of direction we lead students to consider in class, the kinds of example we choose to illustrate our points, the kinds of case study or research project towards which we direct them. If I teach economics and always give my examples based on the cost of a case of beer, I am not contributing to the reduction of the alcohol problem on campus. If I favor my male students and patronize my female students, I am helping to perpetuate an environment in which sexism flourishes and sexual harassment is more likely. If I consistently get my students to think hard and reflect upon the structures of their own society, and if I can do this within an institution that supports me by living according to the values it wants to teach, then there is a chance that my students will emerge with the awareness and skills to resist the system in favor of the lifeworld.

Educational Integrity

There are two obvious objections to my proposals: that they are elitist, and that they are impossibly idealistic. On the one hand, it might be said, while it is all very well for the "top" four-year colleges to be asked to attend to their own purification, less selective, more financially strapped schools, two-year colleges, and community colleges, cannot do any of these things, and are performing a vital function in providing exactly what I seem to be dismissing, a professional education. On the other hand, I might be accused, perhaps more by tuition-paying parents than anyone else, of "not living in the real world," not recognizing that the cost of college education has to be returned in more than a finer sensibility. People will not go to college for what I am offering, but instead expect to see a return on their investment in terms of a better career path, greater financial rewards, and so on. Let me in conclusion try to respond to both accusations.

The role of education is not social reproduction. Rather, it is to equip individuals to be productive members of society; and to contribute to making that society more just and humane than it would otherwise be. of course, one requirement is professional or technical proficiency in one's chosen field, and it goes without saying that this will always remain one principal purpose of educational institutions. But-and this is my fundamental concern-if that proficiency is acquired in classes and in institutions which deliberately or unconsciously reproduce the values and systems of our late capitalist society, then all we will be producing will be efficient manipulators and preservers of the system. So the context (both the classroom context and the institutional ambience) is vital to ensuring that the proficiency is acquired alongside a reflective and critical capacity, an awareness of the structures that enmesh ant to some degree enchain us. As a matter of fact, I suspect that community and two-year and many less prestigious institutions actually have a far better record of social and educational integrity than the elite institutions of our society. I am sure that, proportionately, they produce far more labor leaders, social workers, and community organizers than do the Harvards and Princetons of this world. They may not have the luxury of extensive core curricula, but they have just as much opportunity, and equal responsibility, to put professional preparation in a truly educational context-attending to the structures of the world in which the student will have to live. After all, if Paulo Freire can do so much with illiterate Brazilian peasants, we shouldn't be too quick to dismiss the community colleges.

Finally, we turn to the question of unreality, that frequent and often justified accusation against the academic. I may sound harsh here, and I am probably addressing the more elite institutions at this point, since they often set the tone and are more responsible for the underlying structural problems of society. If academic institutions want to produce those finely-honed "masters of the universe" that people the pages of Tom Wolfe's Bonfire of the Vanities-and that is exactly what many of them seem to want, judging by their priorities-they will have chosen to be part of the problem that humane education is striving to address, not part of the solution that our world so sadly needs. A sound moral sense and a refined critical sensibility about the true nature of our society, which a truly humane education is working to create in students, will force some difficult choices. It is never easy to put the good of the other, or of society, before one's own material advancement, especially when that seems to be within reach. This is not a call to evangelical poverty but to responsible citizenship. Education is not likely to fashion many saints, but it should produce graduates who can see the connections between individual and social well-being, and balance the two. If our education hasn't offered us that capacity, then it has failed us and we should sue. And if it has offered it, and we have rejected it, then we have wasted every penny we ever spent.


[1] Man's Search for Meaning (New York: Pocket Books, 1993).

[2] Pedagogy of the Oppressed (New York: Continuum, 1970); Education for Critical Consciousness (New York: Continuum, 1973); Pedagogy in Process (New York: Continuum, 1978); and The Politics of Education (South Hadley, Mass.: Bergin and Garvey, 1985).

[3] See especially, Ira Shor and Paulo Freire A Pedagogy for Liberation: Dialogues on Transforming Education, (South Hadley, Mass.: Bergin and Garvey, 1987).

[4] This is the argument of Habermas's major work of the last ten years, The Theory of Communicative Action, 2 vols. (Boston: Beacon Press, 1984), 88.

[5] See especially the early work, Strukturwandel der Offentlichkeit (1974), only recently translated into English as The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1989).

[6] It is ironic to note that even as I write this, in the summer of 1993, representatives of the very best of corporate institutions are meeting with President Clinton to discuss the future of corporate practice. They may well be waking up to the weaknesses of the systems model, and coming alive to the advantages that lie in greater workplace democracy, worker participation and even "liberation management," at the same time that many academic institutions are determined to make themselves look more like a corporate model that may, apparently, be headed for obsolescence.

[7] This, incidentally, is another way of framing the academic/experiential debates about course content. While internships and other direct experience are of course valuable aids to learning in certain types of courses, the practice of argument and of debate, even if conducted in the classroom context (which is never actually not real life), is a classic example of learning by doing.

PAUL LAKELAND, professor of religious studies at Fairfield University in Fairfield, Conn., is author of Theology and Critical Theory: The Discourse of The Church (Abingdon, 1990).

Copyright of Cross Currents is the property of Association for Religion & Intellectual Life and its content may not be copied without the copyright holder's express written permission except for the print or download capabilities of the retrieval software used for access. This content is intended solely for the use of the individual user.  Source: Cross Currents, Winter93, Vol. 43 Issue 4, p488, 15p.