Document Type


Publication Title

The Montana Professor


Montana State University - Northern

Publication Date

Spring 2003


General education is one of the glories of American higher education; it is one of its major headaches as well. The concern for general education highlights some of the distinctive virtues of American universities and colleges. First it illustrates the ability to be open to different traditions and to forge them into something new. Liberal education, the older and still widely used term for general education, is the bequest of British higher education where it was taught to an elite of young gentlemen, destined for careers in politics and the professions. The notion of the well‐rounded gentleman in turn goes back to the Renaissance. Its authoritative portrayal was Castiglioneʹs Book of the Courtier (1528), translated into English within little more than a generation. The tie between liberal education and the seven liberal arts reminds us that general education has still deeper roots inthe Middle Ages and classical antiquity.


© 2003, Montana State University

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