Liberal Education and the Idea of the University

Arguments and Reflections on Theory and Practice

Karim Dharamsi, James Zimmer (Eds.)

by Jan Newberry (University of Lethbridge, Canada), Heather Mirau (University of Lethbridge, Canada), James Cunningham , Allison Dube (Mount Royal University; Canada), Deborah Forbes (Medicine Hat College, Canada), Ronald Glasberg (University of Calgary, Canada), Navneet Kumar (Medicine Hat College, Canada), Collette Lemieux (Mount Royal University, Canada), Roberta Lexier (Mount Royal University, Canada), Katherine E. Aidala (Mount Holyoke College, USA), Magid Youssef , David Ohreen (Mount Royal University, Canada), Brad Quiring (Mount Royal University, Canada), Kathryn Shailer , Jeff Shires (Purdue University Northwest; USA), Gary Thompson (Saginaw Valley State University, USA), Hektor K.T. Yan (City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong), Shelly Wismath (University of Lethbridge, Canada), Karim Youssef (Mount Royal University, Canada), Sharon Allan (University of Lethbridge, Canada)

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Dharamsi and Zimmer have curated an impressive collection of essays on how Liberal Education and the concept of a modern university are interconnected. From a principled defense of the values and ideals behind a liberal education to engaging storytelling of model practices and pedagogical approaches, this volume presents the reader with a continuous stream of fresh ideas. The authors offer diverse and well-reasoned arguments for the value to society of an educated citizenry and provide wonderful perspectives on approaches to reach this goal. A remarkable and extensive bibliography encourages the reader to pursue new avenues of scholarship while also allowing for the guilty pleasure of going down the rabbit hole to chase interesting philosophical, historical, or technical details. This book is a must-read for advocates of higher education as a pillar of modern democracy.

Pedro L. Muíño, PhD
Professor of Chemistry, Saint Francis University, USA

This collection offers valuable philosophical and pedagogical arguments for liberal education. Woven throughout the volume are examples and cases from practice that show how to prepare students to thrive in the complex and diverse global terrain of the 21st century. Review of Liberal Education is an important resource for instructors, administrators, and the public to understand better the value of classic texts, the need to develop new and more inclusive cultural assumptions, and to realize relatively non-traditional ways of teaching and learning, from makerspaces to story-telling.

Janice Miller-Young, Ph.D., P.Eng.
Academic Director, Centre for Teaching and Learning; Professor, Biomedical Engineering, University of Alberta, Canada

The idea of the university and the idea of liberal education share a family resemblance. However, it is not always explicitly clear what they have in common and what differentiates them. This collection brings together arguments and reflections on the nature of the university and the place of liberal learning in the 21st century. It is divided into two parts. In the first part authors examine the values and ideals that shape our understanding of liberal learning and the university; in the second part authors consider pedagogies informing our practices, asking after what underlying presuppositions, when made explicit, guide our liberal education classrooms in higher education. Unique in its approaches, this volume includes defenses of liberal education’s intrinsic value, the commodification of some of its best ideals, as well as utilitarian defenses that challenge some orthodox conceptions of liberal learning and its justifications. Each in its own right understands liberal learning as essential to the defense of a democratic order. On the pedagogical side, included are essays that defend a view of liberal education from the vantage of STEM subjects, including architecture, as well as those we typically associate with the liberal arts. This volume will aid academics and students seeking to better grasp an understanding of liberal education, but also those seeking to advance their pedagogical ideas about liberal learning. Researchers and students in education, higher education and those interested in the liberal arts and sciences will find this volume a useful addition to their collection.

by David J DiMattio

Chapter 1 Introduction
Karim Dharamsi
Mount Royal University
James Zimmer
Mount Royal University

Part I: Liberal Education: Values and Ideals

Chapter 2 Liberal Education and the Challenges of our Time
Ronald Glasberg
University of Calgary

Chapter 3 Why the World Needs More Philosophers: Liberal Education and Public Intellectuals
Kathryn Shailer
Independent Scholar

Chapter 4 Liberal Education and Democracy: Challenging Neoliberal Conceptions of Pedagogy
Navneet Kumar
Medicine Hat College

Chapter 5 In Defence of a Utilitarian University Education
Allison Dube
Mount Royal University

Chapter 6 A Conservative Defense of Liberal Education
James Cunningham
Independent Scholar

Chapter 7 The Civic Benefits of the Trivium
Jeff Shires
Purdue University Northwest

Chapter 8 Is Critical thinking a Part of Liberal Education?
Gary L. Thompson
Saginaw Valley State University

Part II: Liberal Education: Practices and Pedagogy

Chapter 9 On Aesthetic Judgement and Moral Judgement
Hektor K. T. Yan
City University of Hong Kong

Chapter 10 The Influence of Diverse Peer Dialogue on Business Student Moral Reasoning: Why Liberal Education Matters
David Ohreen
Mount Royal University

Chapter 11 Resisting the Ivory Tower: Liberal Education and Social Change
Robert Lexier
Mount Royal University

Chapter 12 Making and Maker Culture in the Liberal Arts and Sciences
Katherine E. Aidala
Mount Holyoke College

Chapter 13 Engaging Wicked Problems with Design Thinking: A Pedagogical Strategy for the Liberal Arts in the 21st Century
Sharon Allan
University of Lethbridge
Deborah Forbes
Medicine Hat College

Chapter 14 Liberal Arts and the Reform Movement in Statistics Education
Brad Quiring
Mount Royal University
Collette Lemieux
Mount Royal University

Chapter 15 The Evolution of Liberal Education at the University of Lethbridge
Heather Mirau
University of Lethbridge
Jan Newberry
University of Lethbridge
Shelly Wismath
University of Lethbridge

Chapter 16 Visualizing Knowledge: The Pivotal Role of Visualizing Abstract Thinking
Karim W.F. Youssef
Mount Royal University
Magid W.F. Youssef
Independent Scholar


Karim Dharamsi is an Associate Professor of Philosophy and Chair of General Education at Mount Royal University in Calgary, Canada. He has published articles in the philosophy of history, on the philosophy of R.G. Collingwood, Wittgenstein, Frege, the philosophy of education and liberal education.

James Zimmer is the Vice-Provost and Associate Vice-President, Teaching and Learning, at Mount Royal University (MRU). Prior to his current appointment, Jim served as Dean of the Faculty of Teaching and Learning at MRU (2007-2015) and Director of the University Teaching-Learning Centre (1998-2007). In his current role, Jim oversees university-wide teaching, learning and curricular initiatives including liberal education, teaching enhancement and innovation, Internationalization, Indigenization of curriculum, cyclical program review, collaborative degrees and dual credit. Jim's disciplinary background is in nursing. Between 1981 and 1995, he held clinical positions in critical care and taught undergraduate nursing at Fanshawe College, Foothills Hospital School of Nursing and Mount Royal.

Liberal Education, Higher Education, Democracy and Education, Liberal Learning, General Education, Utilitarian Education, Liberal Arts, STEM, Design Thinking, Visualization and Education, Innovative Pedagogies, Student Movements, Business Education, Moral Reasoning, Statistical Reasoning

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Bibliographic Information

Book Title

Liberal Education and the Idea of the University

Book Subtitle

Arguments and Reflections on Theory and Practice





Number of pages


Physical size

236mm x 160mm


9 B&W

Publication date

April 2019