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ERIC Number: EJ1099530
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2008
"Bildung" and Moral Self-Cultivation in Higher Education: What Does It Mean and How Can It Be Achieved?
Forum on Public Policy Online, v2008 n2 Sum 2008
One of the most fundamental questions that can be asked about education is what it is for. Why do we need education? Which are its most fundamental purposes? The most obvious and generally accepted answer is that education aims at providing students with knowledge and skills which match the demands of employers, thus enabling students to find jobs and employers to find employees--call this the vocational goal. However, many thinkers and traditions of thought have stressed the importance of nonvocational goals of education. In Greek thinking, the ideal of "paideia" included the development of moral virtues and logical and rhetorical skills which were thought essential for becoming a good human being and democratic citizen. In a similar vein, today's liberal education in the US and other countries aims at providing students with a basis of general, non-specialised knowledge and skills which allow them to contribute actively and positively to society. In German philosophical and educational thought, J. G. Herder, Wilhelm von Humboldt, Hans-Georg Gadamer and others have developed the concept of "Bildung," a word which in its most literal sense means formation, but which here refers more specifically to formation or cultivation, in education or otherwise, of human moral virtues and other capacities. (Herder 2002, Humboldt 1791-1792/1993, Gadamer 1960/1989.) In this article, the author asks What "can" we mean, or rather, what "ought" we to mean by "Bildung" today if it is to function as a goal of higher education? And how can it be put into educational practice? In which ways can university teachers working in a contemporary system of mass education encourage students to develop their full potentials of human capacities in the ways envisioned in the "Bildung" tradition? Herein, the author identifies what he believes is a main difficulty with the idea of "Bildung" as an educational goal in contemporary society; it is difficult to see how teachers can stimulate their students' moral development into responsible and reflective persons without imposing on them ready-made moral values, thereby hindering their "cognitive" development into critical and independent thinkers. This is the theme of the first section of the article. In the second section, he points to some didactic methods which he believes make it possible to handle the difficulty, and thereby to help teachers put the "Bildung" ideal into educational practice.
Descriptors: Higher Education, Colleges, College Students, Foreign Countries, Moral Development, Moral Values, Transformative Learning, Critical Thinking, Teaching Methods, Educational Practices, Didacticism, Educational Change, Educational Philosophy
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Evaluative; Opinion Papers
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
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Identifiers - Location: Sweden
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