Dr. C. Bradley Thompson 
Liberal Education and the Quest for Truth, Freedom, and Greatness

October 4, 2018
The Great Hall

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C. Bradley Thompson is the BB&T Research Professor in the Department of Political Science at Clemson University and the Executive Director of the Clemson Institute for the Study Capitalism.

He received his Ph.D at Brown University, and he has also been a visiting scholar at Princeton and Harvard universities and at the University of London.

In recent years, Dr. Thompson has also published essays on a range of topics such as children’s rights, natural law theory, Marxism, Progressive education, and free-market education.

He is currently completing a book on “The Ideological Origins of American Constitutionalism.

Dr. Thompson is also an occasional writer for The Times Literary Supplement of London and The Objective Standard. He has lectured around the country on education reform and his op-ed essays have appeared in scores of newspapers in the U.S. and abroad. His lectures on the political thought of John Adams have twice appeared on C-SPAN.

In a former life, Dr. Thompson played on the 1978 Queen’s University national championship football team in Canada, and in 1980 he placed third in the long jump at the Canadian Track & Field Olympic Trials. Dr. Thompson is married and the father of three home-schooled children. He supports Arsenal Football Club.

Event Reflection

by Billy Clouse

On Thursday, October 4, Dr. C. Bradley Thompson gave a lecture outlining the importance of a liberal arts education.

He began his talk by apologizing on behalf of his generation for screwing up higher education. According to Thompson, the focus has shifted from learning to gaining competencies in various knowledge areas. In short, he said universities are being run as businesses.

Thompson said liberal arts education is so important because rather than teaching students what to think, it teaches them the value of thinking. This field challenges students to search for answers, and eventually provides a liberation of thought.

To illustrate the nature of liberal arts education, which begins with questions rather than answers, Thompson posed five questions for the audience to ponder, each of which can be analyzed with the liberal arts approach:

Why be moral?
Can there be morality without religion?
Are their moral principles that are absolutely true?
Are you your brother's keeper?
Is moral perfection possible?

Thompson said that liberal arts education is valuable despite not being a technical degree, because it embarks on a quest for truth, freedom, and greatness.

When faced with parents who are concerned that liberal arts degrees won't result in a job, he tells them that the student should major "in something useful, like philosophy, history, or literature." According to Thompson, college is about finding who you are and what you want to learn; it's not about getting a job.

"College should not be a place where old books go to die," he said. "It's where they should come to life."


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