Knowledge, Skills, and Character: Essay Educational Vision
Publication by Herman de Regt and Alkeline van Lenning: Exploring an Educational Vision for Tilburg University
PRESS RELEASE 21 November 2017 - During the Anniversary (Dies) Celebration on November 16, the essay Exploring an Educational Vision for Tilburg University by Dean of University College Alkeline van Lenning and philosopher Herman de Regt was presented. This essay lies at the basis of the new Tilburg Educational Vision. This vision can be summarized as ‘knowledge, skills, and character’.
Naturally, a university should teach its students the latest scientific insights and the skills to acquire and apply this knowledge. But Tilburg University wants to do more. It wants its graduates to be competent academics who understand society and who want to play a meaningful role in it. Driven by solidarity and by a sense of responsibility and empathy, Tilburg alumni aspire to improve and advance society.
“Students should […] take care to regard studying as a sort of interim phase, a preparation for what is really important in their life – which is practical work in the […] world. […] What you are is more important than what you know.” These words by founding father of Tilburg University (TiU) Martinus Cobbenhagen reverberate throughout the essay. The essay advocates an educational vision the central core of which is students in Tilburg being trained to become thinkers ‘doing the right thing’, aspiring to work for the benefit of society, in other words to become thinkers of character. Students of Tilburg University not only acquire knowledge and skills, they are also trained to develop strong ethical awareness, which defines their character. This building of students’ character in no way means turning them into passive students modeled after some sort of ideal image; what it means is offering them the means available for the purpose, for them to employ in their own personal way.
Content of the Essay
Part 1 of the essay draws an outline of the academic tradition. Valuable insights on academic education and science, both past and present, pass for review, featuring such thinkers as Francis Bacon, Wilhelm von Humboldt, John Dewey, and Martha Nussbaum, and introducing concepts like ‘TiU-shaped academcs’ and ‘first-, second-, and third-generation university.’
Part 2 elaborates on the goal of the university education offered by Tilburg University. Old as well as very modern scientific insights on the human intellect contribute to the goal and method of education at Tilburg University. We are familiarized with Daniel Kahneman’s research on fast and slow thinking, and the authors indicate how the consequences of this distinction should be incorporated in the design of academic education in Tilburg. This section also goes into future challenges for enterprising thinkers, into what the world needs, and how educational programs should anticipate these needs.
Part 3 includes the authors’ proposal for the Tilburg Educational Profile. Using the labels ‘knowledge’, ‘skills’ and ‘character,’ they describe what should be the defining characteristics of education at Tilburg University. ‘The human dimension,’ ‘small-scale classes,’ and ‘self-reflection’ are crucial elements in this.