Fostering the Liberal Arts in the 21-Century Military Academy

Dong-ha Seo


This paper explores the question of how the liberal arts will address some of the great challenges of contemporary military education. To approach producing good Army officers through the lens of the liberal arts may appear as an inevitable choice for our focus, since the growing interest in the liberal arts among people of our time provides the positive rhetoric of its commitment to leadership development. The liberal arts, therefore, should be taken into consideration for translating knowledge into meaningful action in military education. If we look at the complex or often contradictory nature of military education at a service academy, we would find that the liberal arts are an inseparable part of professional military education, despite that we have placed a high priority on military training instead of humanisitc studies. Thus, this paper shares a similar approach which links the liberal arts to military education, but differs in the extent to which it endeavor to shift the focus from a competing priorities between the military and the academic sides to a desire to pursue the harmonious coexistence in a permanent struggle. By so doing, I argue that rather than focusing on military, or academic (humanistic) demands in our education, we as a four-year higher education institution should remember that we should be able to accept that competing values can coexist, although there is a difference in emphasis. As Ludiwig Wittgenstein has demonstrated, if we see a rabbit (or duck) in the drawing we cannot see the equal and opposite claim for it to be a duck (or rabbit). In the same way, when we see a military academy only from the position of training and education of military professionals, two competing and contradictory aspects that characterize the fundamental nature of military academy are unlikely to be seen both at the same time. Our current obsession with fostering the so-called “military aptitude” and learning career-oriented knowledge and skills makes it difficult to see another part existing together in the same place. Based on this observation, I also argue that it is questionable to produce physically and ethically good officers only through repeated acts in a well-tailored training scenario because they are instrumental. As I have found from the dairy of late Major Kang Jae-gu who sacrificed his life for his soldiers enacting the values we hold dearest, there is the realm of imagination which cannot be easily reducible to any kind of model-act but inspires his critical thinking and self-reflection. While our practical concern about the application of knowledge into action throughout a set of classroom activities and field practices help us to effectively train and educate our cadets, I hope that my emphasis on inspiration in this paper also helps us to listen to what Major Kang’s action has to say about our approach to producing a good officer today.

Keywords: Oymoron, military, academy, duck-rabbit, inspiration, Major Kang, Jae-gu,

Full Text: PDF
Download the IISTE publication guideline!

To list your conference here. Please contact the administrator of this platform.

Paper submission email:

ISSN (Paper)2224-5766 ISSN (Online)2225-0484

Please add our address "" into your email contact list.

This journal follows ISO 9001 management standard and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Copyright ©