April 2, 2015

the crafts of freedom (2015)

We rightly associate Martin Luther King’s oratorical eloquence with his vocation as a Baptist minister, following his father and grandfather before him. But King also emerged from the rhetorical tradition of the liberal arts, transforming the sources with which he engaged throughout his too-brief life. . . . Today both “liberal” and “arts” have narrow connotations that don’t adequately convey the ambitions of the traditional liberal-arts program of study. The emancipatory liberal arts were crafts of freedom: mental skills suitable to a free citizen. They were distinguished from the manual skills needed by uneducated and enslaved people—hence the continued tensions between “liberal” and “vocational” ideals that have bedeviled formal education since its origin.

Scott Newstok (2015)