Considering liberal learning and the health professions

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Fox, Charles R.

Fox C. R. Considering liberal learning and the health professions . Journal of Physical Therapy Education. 2008; 22(2):12-15.


There has been much discussion among both liberal arts and professional programs educators concerning the relationship between a liberal education and a professional education. The focus of these discussions is how a traditional liberal arts education can inform a professional (entry-level) education. This paper refocuses the discussion to consider professional education as a de facto liberal education. The author suggests separating a liberal education from an education in a health profession has distinct disadvantages and is not necessary. The author maintains that the dichotomy between liberal and professional education is false. Professional education for all of the major health professions can accomplish the goals of a liberal education. Discussion and Conclusions. The background and significance of the traditional distinction between liberal and professional education are described. The basic goals of traditional liberal education and their relation and relevance to modern professional education are discussed. Both general and specific examples of a professional education as a liberal education are presented. The discussion ends with a call to action for focused, public dialog among health professions educators on the relation of liberal and professional education with the goal of reconceptualizing the relationship between the two types of education.

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