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Garth Libhart ’11

English Literature  |  Lancaster, Pa.

“The Utilitarian Influence on Education during the Industrial Revolution”


Garth LibhartThe Paper:

I’ve always been fascinated with how the public views knowledge and education. Reading thinkers like Marx, Arnold and Plato and observing the erosion of intellectual curiosity in our society have compelled me to question why our world has become so drunk with material desires and why education, in some ways, fails to sober that intoxication.

My paper demonstrates how industrialists used philosophical ideas of the 18th century to skew the purpose of education in England and goes on to argue that this skewing led Western society to value knowledge for its potential to earn profit rather than for its potential to foster virtue.


The Sponsor: Randy Robertson, Ph.D., assistant professor of English and creative writing

I really enjoyed working with Dr. Robertson. I’ve had him for other classes with him and was already developing a lively intellectual rapport with him before the project began. Our meetings generally consisted of some comments from him, followed by questions from me, and then some general discussion about my topic. The discussions kept me sincerely interested in my topic.


The Process:

Essentially, I began by looking for scholarly articles and books on the topics of utilitarianism and education. I also read several philosophical treatises on education by people like Rousseau and Bentham. When writing my paper, I worked in sections, tackling one major argument at a time, under which there were always minor arguments and minor digressions. 


The Reward:

The experience was a better one than I had expected. I think in our minds we tend to think of sophomore essay as some almost insurmountable task, but in reality it is not that daunting if you use your time well.

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