The liberal arts debate among the faculty at Regina Campus
in the 1960s reflected the social and political movements of the
day, especially the rise of student power and the New Left. At
the same time, it revived a much older debate about the nature
of liberal education, which historian Bruce Kimball traces back
to the thought of Socrates and Cicero. Kimball’s typology of
“orators” versus “philosophers” brings order and clarity to what
otherwise appears as a jumbled mix of conflicting viewpoints.
The “oratorical” tradition favors general education based on
knowable truth as a means to prepare youth for responsible and
active citizenship. The “philosophical” or “liberal-free” ideal
emphasizes the freedom to search for truth, an eternal quest
that never attains its goal, and has led to the dominance of
scientific research and the fragmentation of knowledge. The
“orators” lost the sixties debate, and the “liberal-free” ideal
is now almost uncontested.