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Contemporary liberal education: slowing down to discern

Victor R. Delclos (Professor and Chair, based at Education Specialties Department, Department of Education Specialties, Loyola University Maryland, Timonium, Maryland, USA)
Randall P. Donaldson (Associate Professor of German, based at Department of Modern Languages and Literatures, Loyola University Maryland, Baltimore, Maryland, USA)

On the Horizon

ISSN: 1074-8121

Article publication date: 4 February 2014




This essay seeks to argue that contemporary liberal arts education can be viewed from the perspective of contemporary psychological understandings of human cognition combined with the classical pedagogy developed in the foundational concepts of Jesuit education. Through a description of the human cognitive system as discussed in the writing of Daniel Kahneman and the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius Loyola, the concepts of “slow thinking” and “discernment” are offered as important models that can inform development of a liberal education in an information-saturated society.


The essay presents an interpretation of the essentially “liberating” nature of liberal education in light of the psychological literature that demonstrates how one's culture contributes to the formation of cognitive structures that allow largely automatic processing of information in a non-reflective, fast process that leads to understanding that is constrained and somewhat closed to alternative understanding. This interpretation is then discussed in light of a process of discernment that allows the individual to open up to new ideas.


The essay thus derives the conclusion that a focus on pedagogy of discernment is the essential feature of a modern liberal education and leads to creative expression of new ideas in new ways.


The essay presents an alternative view of contemporary liberal education that is based on a well-developed historical approach (Ignatian discernment) and supported by current psychological research.



R. Delclos, V. and P. Donaldson, R. (2014), "Contemporary liberal education: slowing down to discern", On the Horizon, Vol. 22 No. 1, pp. 7-9.



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