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General Education on the American Campus: A Historical Introduction in Brief


by Sheldon Rothblatt 1988

Whether we attribute the origins of the idea of the love of knowledge being its own reward to Aristotle or to Plato and Pythagoras, the fact must be that all education, including general education, is by definition practical. How it is practical is the operative question. Is it broadly or narrowly useful, general preparation for life in the world or for a specific career? Even this polarity hardly exhausts the possibilities of utility. General preparation for life presupposes some kind of life, some kind of social role, and the word "career" covers occupations as diverse as soothsaying to the writing of software manuals. Furthermore, some occupations require more general preparation than others; some demand only rudimentary instruction.


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This article originally appeared as NSSE Yearbook Vol 87, No. 2.


Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 89 Number 6, 1988, p. 9-28
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 18962, Date Accessed: 10/17/2017 9:50:41 PM

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About the Author
  • Sheldon Rothblatt
    Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm
    SHELDON ROTHBLATT serves as the STINT Professor of University History at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm.
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