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Posted September 23, 2003 

Recalling Education
By Hugh Mercer Curtler
Wilmington, Delaware:ISI Books:2001
Reviewed by Lon Woodbury

Recalling Education was written by Hugh Curtler, a professor of philosophy at Southwest State University in Marshall, Minnesota. He has written five other books, including Rediscovering Values: Coming to Terms with Postmodernism. Although Recalling Education focuses on college level education, the ideas Curtler expresses here are also very relevant to secondary education, especially emotional growth schools.

The purpose of his book is to study the interactions between freedom, education and citizenship. Curtler believes that producing properly educated and reasonable citizens is a more important mission for schools than producing accountants, schoolteachers, or Ph.D.’s. He asserts, “education is about freedom: it is the systematic process of putting young people into possession of their own minds. In the true sense of the word, education is about empowerment, the freedom that enables persons to act in accordance with their own self-determined ends.” He continues, “a free man or woman is one who can resist forces that act counter to his or her long-range self-interest, whether these forces be within or without.” Similar ideas are reflected in his statement: “one is an educated person only if one’s mind is one’s own,” and “young people are not free at birth; they become free only after they have been properly educated.” According to his view, “education is the process whereby rational agents achieve autonomy and are thereby empowered to decide and act for themselves.”

Curtler explains that when Aristotle spoke of reason, he spoke of the whole person as a rational being, which includes the mind and the emotions. Thus, Curtler contends, the self-discipline of the emotions is an important part of education. Although he asserts a person’s moral values are pretty much determined by the time they are age five, the liberal arts is a vital tool in refining the students’ mental and emotional self-discipline. If Virtue can be taught in later life, the author feels it can only occur through human reason. He concludes by observing, “Social Justice cannot be achieved if young people cannot think” and “without viewing objective truth as a goal, there is no way to resolve differences of opinion which would make human ideals whimsical.” He further states, “an open mind may be an empty mind.”

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