course description

What is an education for? What does it have to do with real life—not just any life, but a life worth living? We will explore these questions through engagement with the visions of five very different ways of imagining the good life and, therefore, of imagining education: the traditions of Confucianism and Christianity and three diverse modern thinkers. By the end, students will be prepared to ask the question of the good life and to put that question at the heart of their college education.

Semester Overview

The Contemporary Crisis in College Education

  • Andrew Delbanco, College: What It Was, Is, and Should Be, 9–66
  • Scott Gerber, “How Liberal Arts Colleges Are Failing America,” The Atlantic, September 24, 2012
  • Randall Collins, “Credential Inflation and the Future of Universities,” Italian Journal of Sociology of Education
  • Martha Nussbaum, Not for Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities, 13–46
  • Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me, 25-64, 135-152


  • Confucius, Analects
  • Philip Ivanhoe, “Conceptions of Self, Society, and World,” Confucian Reflections:Ancient Wisdom for Modern Times
  • ———, “Being in and Learning from Tradition,” Confucian Reflections: Ancient Wisdom for Modern Times
  • ———, Confucian Moral Self-Cultivation, selections
  • ———, Philip Ivanhoe, “The Music in and of Our Lives,” Confucian Reflections
  • Mencius, 2A6, 6A1, 2, 6-9, 11, 14-18
  • Chun-Chieh Huang, “Mencius’ Educational Philosophy and Its Contemporary Relevance,” Educational Philosophy and Theory 46, no. 13: 1462–73
  • Chu Hsi, Learning to Be a Sage, selections


  • Selections from the New Testament
  • Genesis 1-3
  • Alexander Schmemann, “The World as Sacrament,” For the Life of the World
  • Miroslav Volf, “Epilogue,” Flourishing
  • Simone Weil, Gravity and Grace, selections
  • Augustine, Confessions, selections
  • ———, Sermon 179A, §4
  • James K. A. Smith, Desiring the Kingdom, selections
  • Simone Weil, “Reflections on the Right Use of School Studies with a View to the Love of God”
  • Willie James Jennings, After Whiteness: An Education in Belonging, selections

Modern Options

  • Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Confessions, Book I, selection
  • ———, Reveries of the Solitary Walker, Eighth Walk, selection
  • ———, Emile, selections
  • Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, chapters 2, 6, 10–12
  • Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Chapters 1-2
  • bell hooks, Teaching to Transgress, selections
"I saw in my classmates, from Christian to Atheist to Muslim to Jew, from the agnostic middle to the free-will-denying scientists, a capacity for wonder, love, curiosity, deep reflection, argument, and serendipity."

Yale Student / Life Worth Living 2018

RElated Media