Idea of a University by John Henry Newman: Is This Still True Today? Essay

Idea of a University by John Henry Newman: Is This Still True Today? Essay

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In 1852 when John Henry Newman wrote his essay, “The Idea of a University,” he wanted to convey that a University’s purpose was to be able to educate first-rate members of the social order. Newman’s theory, although over a hundred years old, still applies to today’s college students; many are seeking higher educations to not only lead to successful careers, but to also become an improved person in society.

In a time when human endeavor was being redesigned, as industries, philosophies, and sciences were growing and affecting the world, Newman wrote an essay explaining the ideas and goals for seeking a liberal arts education. He states in his thesis that the function of such education, “is that of training good members of society” (Newman, 1852).

Now two questions come to mind about the definition of, “training,” which Newman proposed. Is it preparation for someone to obtain a lucrative profession? On the other hand, is it guidance for someone to develop into an impacting member in the social community? Newman suggests both. He writes, “It is the education which gives a man a clear conscious view of his own opinions and judgments, a truth in developing them, and an eloquence in expressing them, and a force in urge them. It teaches him to see things as they are, to go right to the point, to disentangle a skein of though, to detect what is sophistical, and to discard what is irrelevant. It prepares him to fill any post with credit, and to master any subject with facility.” (Newman, 1852). Thus defining a student who has received his degree and is ready to enter a professional field of work, as not only being prepared to perform the work, but also to carry it out at a higher level than expectations were set to. He is a man well, “trained,” to overcome any job related obstacles he may encounter.

“He is at home in any society, he has common ground with every class; he is able to listen; he can ask a question pertinently, and gain a lesson seasonable, when he has nothing to impart himself he is ever ready, yet never in the way; he is a pleasant companion, and a comrade you can depend upon; he knows when to be serious, and when to trifle, and he has a sure tact which enables him to trifle with gracefulness and to be serious with effect.” (Newman, 1852). This establishes an idea that University helps define every individual as a...


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... both received scholarships for their excellence in track, and football respectively. They hope to be able to combine the competition of sports, and the learning to provide a better education experience. Sean, Dave, and I were brought here by a common interest, a hobby. Our enjoyment and knowledge of computers, along with the aid of a college education, will one day turn a pastime into an enjoyable and highly profitable career.

Despite the many reasons of why students decide to attend college, roughly every person has the same rationale as to why they are here. John Henry Newman was able to put it into perspective, and that is to become, “…good members of society” (Newman, 1852). Work Cited Newman, John Henry. Idea of a University, 1854 Accessed June 16, 2011 http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/newman/newman-university.html

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