Sunday, January 25, 2015

AU in France

AU is offering a great new opportunity to study French in France.  For more details and the date of an information meeting this week, see the flyer below:

Professor Moser's New Book

Paradigm Publishers has just published Professor John Moser's new book, "The Global Great Depression And The Coming of World War II."  Alonzo L. Hamby, Distinguished Professor of History at Ohio University, says that "with this bold and far-reaching interpretation of the economic interplay and its political consequences among the world's great powers during the first half of the twentieth century, John Moser ... has given us a landmark work in international history."

Alexander Hamilton Society Event

The Alexander Hamilton Society presents Dr. Michael Schwarz, who will lecture on "Unrepaired Wrongs: James Madison and the War of 1812."  The lecture is scheduled for February 5 at 7:30pm in the Ashbrook Center at Ashland University.  It is free and open to the public.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

What is Liberal Education?

According to the Renaissance humanist Petrus Paulus Vergerius:
We call those studies liberal which are worthy of a free man; those studies by which we attain and practise virtue and wisdom; that education which calls forth, trains and develops those highest gifts of body and of mind which ennoble men, and which are rightly judged to rank next in dignity to virtue only. For to a vulgar temper gain and pleasure are the one aim of existence, to a lofty nature, moral worth and fame. It is, then, of the highest importance that even from infancy this aim, this effort, should constantly be kept alive in growing minds. For I may affirm with fullest conviction that we shall not have attained wisdom in our later years unless in our earliest we have sincerely entered on its search.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Liberal Education and Freedom

In chapter 4 of his recent book, Conscience and its Enemies, Robert P. George makes a useful statement on freedom and the liberal arts.  Some people think that the purpose of liberal education is to liberate one from conventional opinions so that one can be perfectly free to construct one’s “self” in accordance with one’s inner desires and passions. Against that view, and appealing to the soul rather than to the self, George argues that we enter into the conversation with the great minds (Augustine, Dante, Shakespeare, etc.) to appropriate truths that can “liberate us from what is merely vulgar, coarse, or base.”  The kind of Intellectual knowledge made available through the study of these thinkers, he argues, has “a role to play in making self-transcendence possible. It can help us to understand what is good and to love the good above whatever it is we happen to desire; it can teach us to desire what is good because it is good, thus making us truly masters of ourselves.” He concludes in this way:  
The stronger and deeper reason (for respecting academic freedom) is that freedom is the condition of our fuller appropriation of the truth.  I use the term appropriation because knowledge and truth have their value for human beings precisely as fulfillment of capacities for understanding and judgment. The liberal arts liberate the human spirit because knowledge of truth – attainted by the exercise of our rational faculties – is intrinsically and not merely instrumentally valuable.  “Useful knowledge” is, of course, all to the good. It is wonderful when human knowledge can serve other human goods, such as health, as in the biomedical sciences, or economic efficiency and growth, or the construction of great buildings and bridges, or any of a million other worthy purposes.  But even “useful knowledge” is often more than instrumentally valuable, and a great deal of knowledge that wouldn’t qualify as “useful” in the instrumental sense is intrinsically and profoundly enriching and liberating. This is why we honor – and should honor even more highly than we currently do in our institutions of higher learning – excellence in the humanities and pure science (social and natural).
Knowledge that elevates and enriches – knowledge that liberates the human spirit – cannot be merely notional.  It must be appropriated.  It is not – it cannot be – a matter of affirming or even believing correct proposition. The knowledge that elevates and liberates is knowledge not only that something is the case but also why and how it is the case. Typically such knowledge does more than settle something in one’s mind; it opens new avenues of exploration. Its payoff includes new sets of questions, new lines of inquiry.  ... [F]reedom – freedom to inquire, freedom to assent or withhold assent as one’s best judgment dictates - is a condition of the personal appropriation of the truth by the human subject....

Many History and Political Science courses are seminars or conversations in which we read the kinds of works George mentions and examine and respond to one another’s opinions and arguments. George's statement is one way of understanding our approach.  That kind of conversation is the best way to understand the reasons for an opinion or theory - in George’s language, to “appropriate” it or make it your own.  And making the evidence and reasoning that supports an opinion your own is the only way to grasp the real meaning of an opinion and the only way it can truly benefit you. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Great Summer Study Opportunities (with stipends)

The Hertog Foundation is asking professors at AU to nominate students for its Political Studies Program in Washington, DC.  These are some great opportunities to study during the summer with good professors from other institutions, and all the programs come with stipends for participates or (in the case of the Political Studies Program) for some participants.  If you are interested, please talk to Dr. Foster.

The first program is the Political Studies Program, which will take place from June 21 – August 1, 2015 in Washington, DC. This program is geared to current undergraduates and very recent graduates. Many of the same outstanding faculty will be teaching in the program this year, including Bryan Garsten (Yale), James W. Ceaser (University of Virginia), Diana Schaub (Loyola), and Robert Kagan (Brookings Institution), to name just a few. Selected students will receive a $3,000 fellowship stipend for their participation and be provided with dormitory accommodations.

In addition, there is a second set of more specialized programs -- War Studies and Economic Policy Studies. These are intensive two-week summer seminars sponsored in conjunction with the Institute for the Study of War and National Affairs, respectively. They will be held in Washington, DC. Each carries its own stipend of $1,500 as well as dormitory accommodations.

Finally, Hertog has two weeklong offerings -- Advanced Institutes -- which are geared toward undergraduates, recent graduates, and graduate students. These programs come with a $750 stipend, plus room and board.

  • The Political Thought of Abraham Lincoln with Allen C. Guelzo
    • August 2–7, 2015, in partnership with the New-York Historical Society

  • The Lessons of the Iraq War with Vance Serchuk
    • August 9–15, Washington, DC

The deadline for applications for all programs is February 9, 2015. Further information can be found the Hertog Foundation's website (  

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Remembrance Day at Gettysburg

Last weekend, a group of AU students, most of them in Dr. Paddags' course on Democracy & War, descended on Gettysburg to study the most pivotal and most famous battle of the Civil War. While temperatures were chilly and the wind blustery, everyone gave presentations on the participants of the Civil War - from Robert E. Lee and Henry Halleck, to Elizabeth Thorn and Abraham Lincoln. Through the eyes of their characters, the history of the battle unfolded for the students. Moreover, by walking the battlefield everyone got a sense of the dimensions of the battlefield, the terrain, and an appreciation for the valor of the men who fought that battle 151 years ago. As last weekend was also Remembrance Day at Gettysburg, hundreds of reenactors paraded through town, waving civil war flags, marching in formation, and playing civil war era songs. At night, the national cemetery was illuminated by a candle on every soldier's grave, making for a solemn reminder of the sacrifice  which was made on those three days in July, 1863.