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The Learning of Liberty book cover
The Learning of Liberty:
The Educational Ideas of the American Founders
Co-author: Lorraine Smith Pangle
The University Press of Kansas, 1993

"This very important book is original, sweeping, and wise about the relation between education and liberal democracy in the United States.... The book is a mixture of dramatic American views with sympathetic but continuous interrogation, occasionally seasoned with the reflections of a Milton, Locke, Aristotle.... The book displays a startling array of proposals and reflections, especially as to moral and civic education; and this is its most obvious achievement.... It is striking that a book so filled with controversial judgments about education for politics and the politics of education is not 'politicized' in the current sense. The book seems studiedly undoctrinaire, as if the authors intend to present a model of open and direct inquiry for those seeking a thoughtful yet imaginative path amid the fortified ideological camps of the present.... The book is a model of how to mix practical seriousness about American politics with philosophic seriousness about thinking things through. The style reflects the content. There are fourteen chapters, any one of which contains more digested thinking about important American matters than most books."
-American Political Science Review
Essential reading for every student and scholar of American education.
-Diane Ravitch, author of The Schools We Deserve
This is an excellent book, but it is not easy to say why.... One virtue is its complexity. Another its inclusiveness. A third is the fact that it is simply a pleasure to read.... In addition this volume contains an unusually helpful bibliography, almost worthy of study by itself.
-The Journal of Educational Thought
This excellent study provides a wealth of historical material that should be of special interest to those who wish to restore a concern for civic virtue to prominence in educational thought or who wish to explore the connections between public virtue and private aspirations.
-Ethics
Few, if any, will come to the end of this book without having experienced unease, or wonder, or both. For, in the guise of writing a history, as it were, of early American efforts to educate a people for self-governance, the Pangles at once have offered an unfamiliar but deep perspective on the subject and have engaged the reader in their own meditation on what it means to grow up to become a human being. The overall effect is arresting.
-American Journal of Education
The critical engagement [the Pangles] invite with the Founders and with their own reading of the Founders should be stimulating and illuminating for citizens as well as scholars. The call for philosophic discourse, their medium in this important and thoughtful book, is also their message.
-The Journal of American History
Whether you are interested in the character of education or educating for character, The Learning of Liberty is a timely, informative, and richly textured analysis.
-Harvard Educational Review
A well-written, well-annotated, auspicious work.
-Society
Whether or not one is inclined to accept or reject the central argument, one can still admire the book as a piece of scholarship that adds a great deal to our understanding of the evolution of ideas about international politics. It is a powerful addition to an increasingly important 'zone of engagement' in the human sciences.
-William and Mary Quarterly
The great merit of the Pangles' book is the clarity with which it lays out alternative assumptions about the nature and origins of virtue, especially as these were held by the Founders. Thus the book is to be recommended unreservedly to everyone for whom this is an urgent concern....
-First Things