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Well now we’ve done it! This week Lucretia and I decided to take a break from downing whisky shots over the latest crazy news headlines and drag listeners back into the classroom for a new mini-series. I get lots of emails and comments from listeners and readers about why we surrender the term “liberal” to deep leftists who are profoundly illiberal. It’s a great question, and so Lucretia and I decided to take this as an opportunity to offer an extended excursion into how Leo Strauss handled this question in the Preface to his essay collection Liberalism Ancient and Modern.
Strauss wrote the preface to this collection way back in 1968, and while some specific references are obviously dated (such as the Vietnam War), the main arguments are remarkably prescient for our current moment of badly politicized and degraded liberal education in the universities. One of the things Strauss says in this five page preface is, “Liberal education is not the opposite of conservative education, but of illiberal education.” And he also says, “Progressivism is indeed a better term than liberalism for the opposite to conservatism.”