Publication Details

Melleuish, G. (2015). Democracy, utilitarianism and the ideal of liberal education in Australia. Knowledge Cultures, 3 (3), 123-143.


This paper argues that liberal education was introduced into the Australian colonies in the nineteenth century as a corrective to what were perceived to be the deficiencies of colonial social and cultural life. In particular, liberal education had to determine its relationship to the democratic nature of Australia and to what it claimed was the utilitarian nature of colonial culture. This paper traces the relation- ship between liberal education, democracy and utilitarianism by examining the works of three academics who wrote on liberal education: John Woolley in the 1850s and early 1860s, Charles Badham in the 1870s and 1880s and John Anderson in the 1940s and 1950s. It argues that their work indicates the growth of a gap between liberal education and democracy over time, and a narrowing of the idea of liberal education from a belief in the harmonious development of the individual to a narrow focus on criticism