Robert Coles's Paradox Of Thinking To Action

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In this short essay, Robert Coles (1995) reveals his pivotal encounter with a student whose personal story of discrimination and unwanted propositions from fellow classmates challenged his perspective on both his current teaching methods and Harvard’s educational mission. Seated in a liberal educational philosophy, he acknowledged he did little to address the importance of connecting thinking to action in his own practice. Starting the essay with a prophetic warning from Ralph Waldo Emerson, Coles (1995) foreshadows his point that although a liberal educational philosophy may nurture intellect, it does little to foster character development when the link between knowledge and action is ignored. Moreover, through the philosophy student’s observance of ironies that existed between accomplished men and their promotion of Nazism and Fascism, the paradox of liberal education’s failure to meet its stated purpose of developing literacy in intellect as well as morality is revealed.

Predominant within this essay is the author’s original connection to a liberal education philosophy. Scattered throughout, Coles (1995) bares reference to courses in poetry, art, philosophy, moral-reasoning, and literature. All of which, according to Elias and Merriam (2005), are considered hallmark liberal methods to deliver rational and intellectual education. The author indicates an additional link to liberal education philosophy when he mentions the original intent of Harvard and other
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