Our 2017 Colloquium will be on the theme –

Liberal Education: Restoring the Notion of Education as the Basis for Living the Good Life

The Colloquium will focus on three powerful and, in our view, dangerous trends in modern education:

  • Emphasis on specific vocational training leading to premature specialization and narrowness of vision.

  • Neglect of traditional humanistic studies such as history and literature and the loss of a common culture.

  • Disregard of Religion as a public Good. Religion is a way of looking at the world and our place in it. Without some understanding of the religious dimension we are cut off from our past.

The Colloquium will be on Friday 30 June and Saturday 1 July 2017. The venue will be Jane Franklin Hall, in independent college of the University of Tasmania, South Hobart.

 There will be no parallel sessions: the whole colloquium is an integrated conversation between all presenters and participants. We encourage attendance for the entire programme.


Dr Iain Benson

Understanding Purpose and the Drift of Contemporary Cultures

On the connection between techne and telos and the devastation to all disciplines and culture that losing sight of this has occasioned. The paper will build on Alasdair MacIntyre (After Virtue, 1980) and John Rist (Real Ethics, 2002), as well as recent work on pseudo-ethics that attempt to use the language of ‘values’ to do the work that only the richer tradition of ‘virtues’ can do. The riches of teleological traditions which may use different narratives have, nonetheless, a strong shared moral vision oriented in all cases to shared purposes. As the Canadian philosopher George Grant once put it: ‘values language is an obscuring language for morality used when the idea of purpose has been destroyed.’

Dr Kevin Donnelly AM

Education and the Culture of Freedom

Matthew Arnold’s expression ‘the best which has been thought and said’ underscores the relevance and importance of a liberal education.  In an increasingly secular, utilitarian society this view of education is being attacked as obsolete, Eurocentric and oppressive.  Western culture, as a result, is facing an existential threat and the time is now right to reassert the significance of education for enculturation and the common good.

Hon Dr Gary Johns

How the postmodern mindset is destroying modern minds

By the time children have been taught history was a mistake, and that every piece of classic literature must be torn apart to see would like for women, blacks, gays and anyone else who was seen to be a loser, students in the 21st century have no idea how the magnificent society in which they live came to pass. It must seem a complete mystery that anything good has ever come of the world, or that there is such a thing as progress.

Dr Philippa Martyr

Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off?  God, Truth, and Buckminster Fuller

We have been asked to consider three Big Wrongs: over-emphasis on vocational training, neglect of the humanities, and disregard of religion as a public good. But are any of these in fact Big Wrongs? And if they are wrong, are they really all to blame for our current social problems? And is restoring liberal education really the answer? And what is the question? Thrill to the death-defying spectacle of a lone female wrestling with all these questions, against better-qualified opponents and with no safety net. Warnings: Presentation prepared using equipment which has also processed revealed moral absolutes. Quality of individual solutions may vary.

Dr Paul Morrissey

Reclaiming Wisdom: St Thomas Aquinas and the Integration of Knowledge

Education today, especially in institutions of higher learning, is increasingly specialized. This would have been unthinkable and undesirable to the classical and medieval mind.  This paper will explore the insights of Aquinas on wisdom, especially in terms of its integrative nature. Education, it is argued, should have as its goal an understanding of how the various parts of knowledge fit into the universal whole.

Dr Julie Rimes, FACE, FACEL, FAICD

Kiasu: Learning communities in the shadow of the innovative economy

Kiasu is one of those new words making inroads into the English language. It is used prolifically in Singapore, the land of the great PISA results, but it originates in China and refers to a fretful, egoistic mindset that is petrified of ‘missing out’. So how can learning communities prepare the workers, citizens and leaders of tomorrow in this post-truth Information age that has been characterized as both the age of narcissism and the age of discontinuity? I take my lead from the work of Julius Marquis and scholars at the University of Melbourne to explore the new manifestations of the trivium and the quadrivium of the liberal arts in antiquity.  I will propose that the new seven intersecting realms of Systemic Thinking, Deep Expertise, Expert Project Management, Complex Problem Solving, Diversification, Technological Proficiency and why becoming a Writing Worker will help people lead meaningful, ethical and successful lives.

Karl Schmude

The Future of Learning – the Role of the Independent Scholar

The whole world of learning has been captured by the university in our time, so that learning itself is entirely institutionalised and the value of the independent scholar discounted.   Christopher Dawson was a notable example of the modern scholar who largely worked outside universities, as did Lewis Mumford and Barbara Tuchman in the recent past and Gibbon and Darwin in earlier periods.  This paper will examine the role of the independent scholar in opening up new, or at times neglected, understandings, and enriching the intellectual life of our culture.

Emeritus Prof Steven Schwartz AM

Knowledge Without Wisdom

Every type of knowledge–massage therapy, homeopathy and circus performing–is represented on one university campus or another–but ‘wisdom’ is rarely mentioned. Alas, without wisdom, knowledge and information are useless, even dangerous. It’s not easy to go against the utilitarianism of our age, but it is our duty as educators to try.

Dr John Simons

Why the arts are losing the culture war.

This paper will review the current enthusiasm for STEM subjects and, by looking at the realities behind some of the figures that are bandied about, cast some doubt on the claims that are made for them as an educational and economic panacea. These are easy to find so why are the claims so rarely challenged? The reasons lie in the withdrawal of arts academics from public discourse and the career incentives available to them. These two factors combine to disable any credible or clear defence of the humanities from the university sector as it currently stands.

Matthew Williams

Who will light the lantern and keep it burning bright?

The title is taken from a Presentation Sister song ‘One Pace Beyond’. My presentation will look at: Who will keep religion as a way of looking at the world and our place in it? Who will continue to teach an understanding of a religious dimension, and avoid a cut off from the past? Who is going to restore the notion of education as the basis for living the good life? I propose that it is in the educating of our young people who are going to light the lantern and keep it burning bright. It will be through a re-shaped education environment that, in a Catholic education context, has moved from schools being governed by European originated religious orders to the local laity. Keeping the ethos alive will be one of the keys to the success of a Christian education into the future. How is this going to happen? I will present these burning themes through a marketing-mix for Christian education.