Cory’s habits and arts of an educated person are a shared responsibility of teachers and students. They are the foundation for a liberal education and necessary for the exercise of public intellectualism. There are things we ought to be thinking about and doing to ensure that Cory’s habits and arts are meaningful parts of university life. This is the third posting in a series that started with Arts & Habits of an Educated Person – Part I: Foundations for Liberal Education & Generic Graduate Attributes, and Arts & Habits of an Educated Person – Part II: Behaviours Indicative of Self-Knowledge.
As indicated at the end of my last posting Arts & Habits of an Educated Person – Part II: Behaviours Indicative of Self-Knowledge, I am not sure that I made many improvements to Cory’s original phrasing of the habits and arts. In fact, with the exception of the habits of discrimination, mental courage, and mental soberness, I am sure that most of them could just stand as they were originally stated. I do think though that the brief description that follows each habit or art will make it easier for teachers to develop approaches that strike at developing capabilities and behaviours that support both liberal and professional learning.
So here goes…
The Habit of Attention
The habit of applying ones mind to an idea, observable phenomena, or artefact long enough to understand it for the purposes at hand. An educated individual will exercise the habit of paying attention for appropriate durations of time, considering relevant information and disregarding irrelevant information actively as time passes.
The Habit of Engaging in Structured Critical Conversation. (formally "The Habit of Submitting to Censure and Refutation")
An educated individual will exercise the habit of constructing arguments, accepting criticism of their statements and arguments, expecting and preparing for a counter argument, and in turn critiquing the counter argument as appropriate.
The Habit of Considering the Accuracy of Facts, Arguments, and Conclusions. (formally "The Habit of Regarding Minute Points of Accuracy")
An educated individual will exercise the habit of critically and rigorously calling into question the accuracy of the statements of others and those she or he has made or is considering.
The Habit of Planning and Acting in Accordance to what is Possible in a Given Amount of Time. (formally "The Habit of Working Out What is Possible in a Given Time")
An educated individual will exercise the habit of considering, planning, and scheduling activities with full consideration of time dependencies. This extends to factoring the implication of time into ones own arguments and while considering the arguments and suggestions of others.
The Habit of Discerning the Qualities of a Thing or Behaviour and Forming an Opinion Accordingly. (formally "The Habit of Taste")
An educated individual will exercise the habit of discerning the characteristics of things, ideas, and behaviours and assessing their quality appropriately within pluralistic cultures.
The Habit of Identifying Differences and Similarities Among Things or Behaviours, Making Judgments, and Forming Opinions (formally "The Habit of Discrimination")
An educated individual will exercise the habit of articulating the differences among things and behaviours, and when appropriate applying the differences to the choices the individual makes.
The Habit of Consciously and Rationally Behaving in a Manner that May Put Oneself at Risk for a Broader Good or Principle. (formally "The Habit of Mental Courage")
An educated individual will exercise the habit of expressing ideas, engaging in conversation, and knowingly acting in ways that may put her or him at risk for an ideal or principle.
The Habit of Disciplined and Responsible Thought and Expression. (formally "The Habit of Mental Soberness")
An educated individual will exercise the habit of applying appropriate levels of discipline and judgment when considering topics and making decisions.
The Art of Changing Ones Mind, Frame of Reference, and Paradigm with Little Notice. (formally "The art of assuming at a moment's notice a new intellectual posture.")
An educated individual will possess the ability to modify her or his worldview appropriately given their situation and access to previously unknown data or information.
The Art of Applying Intellectual and Emotional Empathy to Another Person’s Thoughts. (formally The art of entering quickly into another person's thoughts")
An educated individual will possess the ability to adopt the intellectual and emotional state of another’s thoughts and quickly assess them from ones own and the other’s perspectives.
The Art of Engaging in Nuanced Understanding and Expression in Argument. (formally "The art of indicating assent or dissent in graduated terms.")
An educated individual will possess the ability to appreciate the nuances of an argument and intentionally respond with appropriate force and intellectual subtlety.
In many ways I am holding the importance and value of Cory’s habits and arts to be self-evident. That these are the behaviours and abilities that we want our students to possess at the very least when they graduate from our universities and at the very most when they enter them. I would suggest that they are necessary to engage with others in broader society critically as a public intellectual. As indicated in a recent post titled Liberalising the Corporate University, I believe that open public expression is an obligation for the professoriate within the context of academic freedom. So, exercising the privileges and obligations of academic freedom ought to provide an excellent opportunity for teaching and learning through modelling practice that illustrates the essential nature of Cory’s habits and arts and provides fertile ground for learning through practice. Incidentally, it may also reassert the central role of professor and student in university life beyond one that is economic. To nurture this culture as a matter of practice I believe that we need to think about:
- Positing that self-knowledge is an aspirational goal for all affiliated with the university teaching mission, and that Cory’s habits and arts are essential to strive for self-knowledge.
- Recognising that genuine learning of this nature is inherently personal and value-laden, will look more like mentorship then instruction, and will be more costly than running the university as a foundry.
- Building opportunities to learn about and practice the habits and arts in each university class.
- Ensuring that there are opportunities to develop and practice the habits and arts through co-curricular activities at each college and university.
- Developing and articulating learning objectives in each class that address at least some of the habits and arts.
- Sharing across academic communities learning activities, learning content, and formative and summative assessments designed to grow knowledge and practice of the habits and arts.
- Map the habits and arts across the curriculum, and at least in Australia include them as part of the generic graduate attributes we expect our graduates to exhibit.
- Publicly engage with professional societies, accreditors, employers, public funding agencies, policy makers, philanthropic foundations, and others to discuss the nature and importance of public intellectualism, the university, and the fluency of graduates in the habits and arts.
None of these things will happen on their own. University faculty will need to commit to an overriding assumption that the habits and arts are important, as will students. University managers must also understand, support, and allow a culture of open and critical expression take root, in our broader communities, within the University, and especially within the class and extended learning environment. Building the habits and arts into the curriculum in a manner that promotes prolonged practice with increasing sophistication designed to result in fluency is a good start, but creating an environment in which students and teachers know each other and engage in genuine, critical, and reflective learning and teaching is essential. It is probably obvious that preparing an educated citizenship is more expensive than training a workforce, which means that funding agencies and learners will also need to assess the value that Cory’s arts and habits as the foundation of a liberal education provides. For the most part, in many societies our public primary and secondary schools have failed to provide such preparation, are we willing to fund it through higher education?
As always, I welcome comment and would appreciate any suggestions for improving the rephrased habits and arts.
From Defence of the Etonian system in reply to the criticisms of Matthew James Higgins (‘Paterfamilias’) and Sir J.T. Coleridge. Cf. DNB, v. 22, p. 488,
Standing up to Managerialism
Arts & Habits of an Educated Person – Part I: Foundations for Liberal Education & Generic Graduate Attributes
Arts & Habits of an Educated Person – Part II: Behaviours Indicative of Self-Knowledge
About the Featured Image
This graphic can be accessed at: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Giovanni_Antonio_Canal,_il_Canaletto_-_Eton_College_Chapel_-_WGA03955.jpg. It is a reproduction of a painting by Giovanni Antonio titled Canal, il Canaletto and features the Eton College Chapel. The painting was produced circa 1754.
This work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author’s life plus 100 years or less.