Front Page Titles (by Subject) Utilitarian Illiberalism - Literature of Liberty, July/September 1978, vol. 1, No. 3
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Utilitarian Illiberalism - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, July/September 1978, vol. 1, No. 3 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
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“Bentham's Chrestomathia: Utilitarian Legacy to British Education.” Journal of the History of Ideas 39 (April-June 1978): 303–316.
The utility principle or “Greatest Happiness” principle espoused by Jeremy Bentham (1748–1832) has been traditionally interpreted as innovative and leading to liberal, social reform policies. This, however, is an inaccurately flattering portrait of Benthamite utilitarianism, particularly in the area of education. Bentham's 1816 Chrestomathia project—his book-length plan of a new day school for the middle class—was largely derivative from other reformist educational schemes of his day. In addition, Bentham's Chrestomathic (“conducive to useful knowledge”) school idea was illiberal in the sense that the values it inculcated (e.g., control, uniformity, and utility) were hardly conducive to developing free, creative individuals. The Chrestomathic School, with its one omnipotent instructor capable of covert surveillance over all his students for every moment of the day, is far removed from the liberal notion of an individualistic educational system.
The illiberal and authoritarian tenor of Bentham's Chrestomathic School proposal is reflected in its architectural design. The School was to be modelled on Bentham's earlier “Panopticon” scheme for an administratively efficient prison. The “Panopticon,” meaning “all-seeing,” was a circular building whose central hub afforded the administrator constant supervision, undetected by the occupants along the circumference. Although a “useful” design for a prison, the Panopticon is an incongruous structure for the education of middle class youth. Bentham remained untroubled by the authoritarian strain in his plan, since his common sense convinced him that pupils would achieve the “greatest happiness” by his device.
As an innovator in educational theory, Bentham also fails. Granted that early nineteenth-century British education in general was unresponsive to middle class needs, and anachronistic because of its overemphasis on the classics. Nevertheless, Bentham's own educational curriculum omits such vital and “modern” subjects as literature, history, political economy, logic, and music. Furthermore, Bentham borrowed his major ideas in associationist psychology and his pedagogical theories. These ideas can be traced to others, particularly Helvetius, Locke, and Hartley (in learning theory). On Bell and Lancaster he leaned heavily for pedagogical techniques of teaching assistants and monitorial systems.
In brief, a critical examination of the Chrestomathia project weakens Bentham's reputation as an innovator and liberal reformer.