13 February 2012

The Mission of Humanities Universities in Eastern and Central Europe (06.06.2012-07.06.2012)

European Humanities University

06.06.2012-07.06.2012, Vilnius

(Deadline: 30.03.2012)

The European Humanities University (EHU) welcomes submissions for its international conference: The Mission of Humanities Universities in Eastern and Central Europe: Between Training and Bildung to be held in Vilnius, Lithuania on June 6-7 2012. This international conference will be EHU's highest profile event in 2012 and dedicated to the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the founding of EHU.

We live in societies described by social theorists as functional where the division of labor puts every person in a precise professional place determined by concrete social needs and goals. In such circumstances the university becomes a mediating structure that trains individuals for these professional spheres, supporting the functional principle and acting according to its logic. But how do universities in Central and Eastern Europe construct and pursue their broader mission in the context of functional societies? Should they pursue only the goal of training professionals, or also embody the integrative mission of cultivating the individual in all respects, as exemplified by the German concept of Bildung in Humboldt's model of a university?

Holism and integration have been enduring educational goals. From the ancient idea of paideia through the Middle Age model of liberal arts schools, the concordia of the Renaissance to the modern conception of integrative learning, the cultivation of a "good and perfect human" has been and remains the mission of much of higher education, even if the characterization of the end goal of education has changed in public discourse. "To be a good citizen," "to make the spiritual journey to God," "to train as a journalist, doctor, teacher" are all goals of contemporary education, and all illustrate the diversity in values and missions of educational institutions, as well as society's changing attitudes toward its individual members and itself as a community. These changes demonstrate a shift from a holistic, integral vision of humanity to training for particular skills considered important in a functionally differentiated society.

This tendency raises important questions. What happens to those centuries-old spheres of human development such as citizenship, union with the transcendent, and progress toward harmony? Do these changes speak to the fragmentation of our educational models, the disengagement of students, and a reduction of civic activity and public service? What functions can and should universities carry out in Eastern and Central European societies today? How do universities promote their social science and humanities functions while fulfilling their integral mission in human life and society in this region?

For more information, see

 http://conferences.ehu.lt/index.php/humanities/2012

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