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The Triumph of the Market and the Decline of Liberal Education: Implications for Civic Life


by Grace Roosevelt ó 2006

The purpose of this article is to argue that the growing commercialization of education and the simultaneous decline of what has traditionally been called "liberal education" will limit the range of political discourse and thus have negative effects on civic life. In a context driven mainly by the profit motive, not-for-profit educational institutions have until recently provided one of the few protected spaces (besides the church) in which the profit motive itself may be openly questioned. But with today's new emphasis on marketable products, measurable outcomes, and business skills, many institutions of higher education are unlikely to expose students to visions of justice and equality that challenge the ethics of the market system. Debates over the extent to which profit making should be regulated in the public interest are crucial to the vitality of any political community. Without the political imagination and broad-based critical thinking that liberal learning has traditionally fostered, there is little hope that liberal politics can continue to survive. The article includes (1) some salient facts about the commercialization of education in the United States today, (2) a brief overview of the history of the idea of liberal education, and (3) concluding reflections about the link between liberal education and liberal politics.


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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 108 Number 7, 2006, p. 1404-1423
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 12561, Date Accessed: 10/22/2017 2:28:13 AM

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About the Author
  • Grace Roosevelt
    Metropolitan College of New York
    E-mail Author
    GRACE ROOSEVELT is associate professor of educational thought at Metropolitan College of New York. Her research interests bridge the fields of educational philosophy and political theory and have focused mainly on the educational and political thought of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. She is the author of Reading Rousseau in the Nuclear Age (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1990) and is the translator and editor of the online edition of Rousseauís Emile that is posted on the Teachers College Institute for Learning Technologies Web site.
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