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Release: Immediate

UI symposium to compare classic education models with modern liberal arts education

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Just as professors, administrators, parents, and students weigh the merits of a liberal arts education against those of an education focused on job-related skills, so did the ancient Greek educators debate practical versus theoretical knowledge as the basis for education. A group of University of Iowa professors along with top scholars in a variety of fields from universities nationwide will gather for the 1998 Obermann Humanities Symposium October 22-24 to discuss how this ancient debate can inform discussions about humanities education as we move into the 21st century.

The interdisciplinary symposium, titled "Civic Education in Classical Athens and Humanities Education Today," will be held at various locations on the UI campus and is sponsored by the UI Obermann Center for Advanced Studies and by Humanities Iowa. The sessions are free and open to the public.

Takis Poulakos, chairman of the UI rhetoric department and co-director of the symposium, said this discussion is particularly important at a time when "humanities education is being critiqued from a number of angles." By acknowledging the similar debate that took place centuries ago and studying the outcome, today's humanities professors will be better equipped to address those who question the value of a liberal arts education, Poulakos said.

David Depew, the other co-director of the symposium, said that inviting some of the country's top scholars to join UI faculty in discussing some of the most important educators of the classical period would certainly result in a dynamic and thought-provoking event. "A good part of the symposium will be devoted to considering how models of education in antiquity, with their democratic assumptions and civic orientation, may still provide some answers to our own questions today about the direction of liberal arts education in our society," he said.

Josiah Ober, chairman of the Princeton University department of classics, will give the keynote address for the symposium, which will address the debate between philosophy and rhetoric as the basis for civic education in ancient Greece. His presentation will be in the Senate Chamber of the Old Capitol Thursday, Oct. 22 during the symposium's first evening session, which runs from 6:30-9:30 p.m.

Other outside experts who will speak during the daily sessions Friday, Oct. 23 and Saturday, Oct. 24 include: Eve Browning Cole of the University of Minnesota-Duluth philosophy department; Eugene Garver of the St. John's University philosophy department; Robert Hariman of the Drake University rhetoric and communication studies departments; David Konstan of the Brown University classics department; Michael Leff of the Northwestern University communication studies department; Kathryn Morgan of the University of California-Los Angeles classics department; and John Poulakos of the University of Pittsburgh communication department.

University of Iowa participants include: Diana Cates, religion; Kenneth Cmiel and Peter Green, history; David Depew, Ekaterina Haskins, and Michael McGee, communication studies; Helena Dettmer, John Finamore, John Garcia, and Robert Ketterer, classics; Dennis Moore and Takis Poulakos, rhetoric; and Thomas Williams, philosophy.

In addition to the Obermann Center and Humanities Iowa, the UI departments of classics, communication studies, rhetoric, and philosophy and the Project on Rhetoric of Inquiry are supporting this humanities symposium.

For more information or for a schedule of symposium events, contact the UI rhetoric department (319) 335-0178.