The Four Arts Of Freedom Essay, Research Paper
The Four Arts of Freedom
In Wayne C. Booth?s essay ?What?s Supposed to Be Going on Here?? he directly challenges what we consider to be a liberal education and proposes a solution based on revamping the ?three r?s?. This long-winded look at the mental ignorance of people today offers several interesting insights, as well as Booth?s critique of his own proposed solution. Although he admits to having a flawed solution, he does not believe any of the flaws would overthrow his general argument.
Booth begins by stating that what we term as ?liberal education? is actually quite the opposite. He implies that while we are being educated to eradicate ignorance, we are in fact becoming more ignorant because we are being taught to use the information we are given ?for social climbing? (55). Booth also states that without knowledge ?we may embrace political programs and schools of art and world views with as much passion as if we knew what we were doing, but our seeming choices are really what other people have imposed upon us? (55). It seems that educated or not, Booth would consider the average person to be ignorant.
How can this ignorance be stopped? Booth suggests a revamping of the ?three r?s? (reading, ?riting and ?rithmetic). He has proposed another list of r?s, which he considers three of the four on his new list to be ?available, in some degree, to every student who is willing to seek them out? (56). The first r is the art of recovery of meanings. In defining this first r, Booth states that it is ?the art of recovering what other people mean and not what we?d like them to mean?(59). While this sounds fairly easy, it is very much the opposite. Booth believes so many of us have fallen into the habit of assuming we listen with an open mind to other people?s thoughts and ideas, when in fact we essentially sort the ideas into categories we have already formed in our minds and more often than not use that to invalidate the information we are trying to learn.
The second r is rejection. Rejection, Booth believes, is something that can be worked on mainly by uneducated minds. We need to be able to discern which ideas can go together and which ones do not. The best example Booth gives of this is:
The uneducated mind will accept slogans like ?students are the most exploited class in America today,? even though it also knows that migrant workers and black workers have been immeasurably more exploited and have a right to be insulted by the comparison with affluent middle-class students (62).
Although he targets the uneducated mind, Booth does make a point of saying that all of us, educated or not, will have conflicting ideas such as that. However, someone who is educated would be able to notice the conflict in such a statement and work through that.
The third r is renewal/renovation. Renewal mainly ties in with rejection. Renewal would come up when the educated man would sit down and rethink his opposing ideas and come up with a new ?renovated? idea that would not be conflicting. Renewal also comes up in discussing the media?s role in our education. Rather than just sitting back and absorbing all of the information that is thrown at us on the radio, on the television, and in printed materials, Booth tells us to take a closer look. Education should allow us to ?see our contradictions clearly and, more importantly? (64) should ?teach the methods of bringing contradictions to the surface, of working out genuine harmonies, and of presenting the results persuasively to our fellow man? (64).
The final r is revolution. Booth is suggesting an intellectual revolution. Using recovery, rejection and renewal as key factors in education, and intellectual revolution could begin. However, even as clearly defined as Booth has made this solution, there are a few complications he himself has noted. The first would be spending ?too much time trying to get all my ideas clear before I act? (64), which could result in him never acting. The other side of that argument would be to act too rashly. The idea could be half developed but for fear of never acting, could be rushed out to the public and end up doing more harm than good.
Another possible complication would be how can we tell and educator from an ?indoctrinator disguised as [an] educator?? (64). No matter what precautions were taken, it would be easy to assume that there would still be some people out there trying to impose their opinions, or those of others, on the student (to the point where the student would come to believe that it was their own opinion). Although Booth?s plan sounds different than most things being taught now, it would still be very difficult to realize if one was in fact being misled.
While there were other complications with Booth?s solution, he does not believe that any of these would effect or invalidate his initial plan. He believes that within his ?four arts of freedom? (64) solution lays the path to true freedom- whether it is spiritual, mental or physical. His suggestions, he believes, would truly make our ?liberal education? liberal.
Booth, Wayne C. ?What?s Supposed to Be Going on Here?? Making Choices Eds. Michael Cooley
Katherine Powell. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997: 55-65.