Emily Langston | Simon Haines | Stephen McInerney| A Reflection on Liberal Education

Jul 3, 2023 | Announcements, News & Media

Sydney, Monday 03 July 2023: What is liberal education? How is it different from professional education? What does it set out to do and how does it form us?

To help uncover the distinctive features of liberal arts and Great Books programs, the Ramsay Centre is delighted to present a conversation with US liberal arts educator and advocate, Dr Emily Langston, for our seventh Ramsay Lecture for 2023.

Dr Emily Langston has until recently served as the Associate Dean for Graduate Programs at St John’s College, Annapolis where she has been a member of faculty since 1995. She holds Masters degrees from Oxford University and the University of Chicago and a PhD from Emory University where she was a Jacob K. Javitz fellow.

She is a national advocate for the liberal arts, serving on boards such as the US Great Questions Foundation, and developing educational programs for a diverse array of organisations from US K-12 schools to the CIA.

Before assuming her role as Head of the College’s Graduate Institute in 2015, she taught in the Graduate Institute and throughout the all-required multidisciplinary undergraduate program at St John’s. 

For Australians unfamiliar with St John’s, this institution is the third oldest college in the US and home to the world’s original and many would argue the world’s best Great Books course. In recent years the College has also been home to several Ramsay Postgraduate Scholars, who have elected to study its Master of Liberal Arts degree through the Centre’s dedicated scholarship.

In this deep and insightful conversation about the meaning that liberal arts studies provide to people’s lives, Dr Langston reflects on her journey from academic specialisation and research, to teaching a broad liberal arts curriculum and participating in the education of ‘the whole human being’.

Dr Langston relays the excitement she shares with students reading the great texts of our civilisation and hearing their opinions on these works before they are exposed to any academic interpretation. And she discusses how reading great works creates a better sense of understanding of our cultural inheritance, enabling students to think of the world they inhabit more deliberately, more critically and in a more exploratory way.  

Joining her with reflections on their own liberal arts journeys are Ramsay Centre CEO Professor Simon Haines and Campion College Director of the Centre for the Study of the Western Tradition Dr Stephen McInerney.

Professor Haines and Dr McInerney reflect on the meaning their educational backgrounds in the liberal arts have brought to their lives and how they have helped further their careers. In the Australian context, they explain the barriers to classical studies, but also why it is vitally important that an integrated holistic liberal arts education becomes more accessible to more people.

Professor Haines examines the history of the evolution of the modern university which has led universities to favour professionally-oriented subjects over the humanities, as well as subjects that relate to the university’s research goals.

Interested in the liberal arts and the future of the humanities? Whether you are a student, academic or person with an interest in the Great Books of Western civilisation, this discussion is not to be missed.

***This is a recorded lecture. It will be available via our website ramsaycentre.org as both a video and podcast from Thursday 6 July.

Media contact: Sarah Switzer 0407 816 098/ sarah.switzer@ramsaycentre.org