Build Your Knowledge for Freedom Program

Knowledge for Freedom Programs

Miami University of Ohio

Miami University of Ohio

"As project director, this program combines so many of the things that matter to me: demonstrating the absolute necessity of the humanties as the training ground for citizenship..."
 
Miami University of Ohio

Student Citizens

Steven Conn, W.E. Smith Professor of History
“The College of Arts and Sciences, the Humanites Center, and the History Department at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio is spending this academic year preparing for our inaugural “Students/Citizens” project to be held in the Summer 2021. As project director, this program combines so many of the things that matter to me: demonstrating the absolute necessity of the humanities as a training ground for citizenship, leveraging the intellectual resources of the university to make a positive difference in underserved areas, and engaging students in changes in their own communities.”
 
 
Newberry College

Newberry College

“From the beginning, I loved the core idea of helping students make connections between literature, history, philosophy, etc. to their own lives and our modern society.”

 
Newberry College

Bridge to Big Ideas @ Newberry College

Naomi Simmons, Associate Professor of Sociology, Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences
At Newberry College, I teach many courses focused on civic engagement. Civic engagement as we define it is meant to emphasize an exploration of self and responsibility through the service to others. My work in this area led to a discussion with Dr. Joseph McDonald who is Professor Emeritus of Sociology at Newberry. He had heard about Dr. Montas' work on the Freedom & Citizenship program and thought that might be a great fit for what I was trying to foster at Newberry. We workshopped some ideas for how to create a program that would serve our small rural community with very limited resources, but with the potential for growth and an eye on making it fully residential and a really prestigious offering. From the beginning, I loved the core idea of helping students make connections between literature, history, philosophy, etc. to their own lives and our modern society. Some of my most rewarding moments in the classroom have always been centered on "aha" moments students have when they can make these connections and I thought, what better way to convince students who might otherwise think they weren't college material that they could do it than to have two weeks full of "aha" moments along with support, care, and the nurturing of their promise! 
 
There have been so many amazing moments in our program that it's hard to pick one! This summer we read a short children's story called The Bear That Wasn't by Frank Tashlin. The story is centered on a bear who goes to sleep one day and wakes up in a city where no one believes that he is a bear. It goes so far that at one point the bear himself questions whether he is indeed a bear. Our students felt so connected to this conversation they came back to it again and again. They shared heartbreaking stories of lacking confidence in who they were, being told they weren't good enough even though they believed they were, and discussed so openly and honestly the real struggle they faced to have people in their lives and in their communities "get them" and appreciate them for who they were. Later in the program, we read Antigone as a group with each of us taking different roles each day. These students couldn't stop making connections to The Bear That Wasn't. They constantly stopped the reading to interject how they admired Antigone's assuredness in herself, they fought over who would play King Creon because they wanted a chance to portray him as though he were the managers in the story telling the bear he wasn't a bear when he knew he was a bear! At one point a student exclaimed that he couldn't believe how well he understood what was happening in the play and how current it felt for our times. The whole experience filled my heart. These kids who were so intimidated by a 5th-century work of literature were sitting online for hours discussing its themes, making connections, and just so full of joy at having real ownership of their learning and knowledge. It really encapsulated what this program is and what learning, in general, should be focused on. 
 
Ursinus College

Ursinus College

"The great value of liberal education should make those of us who teach at liberal arts colleges grateful to America, the political community that gives it a home."

 
Ursinus College

Freedom, Citizenship, and Equality

Paul Stern, Professor of Politics
The great value of liberal education should make those of us who teach at liberal arts colleges grateful to America, the political community that gives it a home. To show this gratitude, we’ve long wanted to contribute, in a manner consistent with our mission, to America’s well-being.  The claim made in the Declaration of Independence that its principles express philosophical truths about humanity and the whole makes it possible to achieve this goal.  For this claim implies that American citizenship is perfectly compatible with reasoned reflection on these truths; to introduce students to this sort of reflection is the contribution we’re properly ready and best able to make.  Moreover, the widespread concern for the ever-diminishing reasonableness of our political discourse made last summer seem a particularly appropriate time to establish the Freedom, Citizenship, and Equality Seminar.  One reason for our degraded discourse is the paucity of opportunities for young people to learn to think and speak knowledgeably about American principles and their practical implications.  It’s all the more crucial, then, that we who can provide such opportunities respond to this need.
 
There were numerous highlights in our first year, but the one I’ll single out occurred on the program’s last day when students staged a re-trial of Socrates.  They served as prosecutors, defenders, and judges, developing on their own the most compelling arguments for Socrates’ guilt or innocence.  We were very impressed not only by the cogency and depth of the students’ arguments but by the energy and enthusiasm they brought to the task.  They left no doubt that the validity of the verdict mattered deeply to each of them.  It was also clear that the students thought that, through reason, they could know better which case, that of Socrates or Athens, comes closer to the truth.  This confidence in reason seems particularly important for citizens of a deliberative democracy.  To instill such confidence is one of our program’s main goals.
Villanova University

Villanova University

“We will invite our Civitas through Caritas students to consider what love is, what people have said they loved, what they have actually loved, and what they ought to love—and, most importantly, to ask the same questions of themselves.”
Villanova University

Civitas through Caritas: Cultivating Love, Cultivating Citizens

Marylu Hill, Teaching Professor & Director of The Augustine and Culture Seminar Program and Graduate Liberal Studies
When I heard a presentation in 2018 by Andrew Delbanco about Columbia’s summer program “Freedom and Citizenship”, I knew immediately that Villanova University, and specifically our first-year experience program, could bring something unique and important to the Teagle Foundation’s “Knowledge for Freedom” initiative. Thanks to the funding from the Teagle Foundation, we will start our program entitled “Civitas through Caritas: Cultivating Love, Cultivating Citizens” in the summer of 2021. The title of our program, with its terms of “civitas” or civil society, and “caritas” or love, draws on the thought and example of St. Augustine of Hippo, the 4th century North African theologian and bishop, and patron saint of the Augustinian order of friars who founded Villanova in 1842. Augustine remains surprisingly timely for modern American culture, not least because he advances the idea that love, or caritas, to use Augustine’s word, makes all the difference in how we might engage in civic discourse, especially in turbulent political times. Caritas offers a model for how we engage in conversation, and how we navigate disagreements across a wide range of differences.
 
We will invite our Civitas through Caritas students—who will come from the greater Philadelphia area—to consider what love is, what people have said they loved, what they have actually loved, and what they ought to love—and, most importantly, to ask the same questions of themselves. By providing these students from varying backgrounds and perspectives the skills to grow together, the goal is to develop reflective and responsible citizens who are committed to the common good, community formation, and responsibility towards others. Furthermore, because responsible citizenship is bound up with how we engage with each other, both in discussion and through the written word, we will draw on Augustine’s practical and pastoral advice in the field of rhetoric to explore how writing in the spirit of love can transform the fraught modern landscape of political discord fomented via social media.
 
The story of Villanova University itself will also be highlighted as an object lesson for civitas. It was founded in 1842 to educate the sons of Irish immigrants in a time of virulent anti-immigrant fervor, as demonstrated in the destruction of Olde Saint Augustine’s Church in Philadelphia (which led to the removal of the college to the countryside outside of Philadelphia). This history is a powerful reminder of the violence which accompanies the breakdown of civic discourse, and the ongoing challenge of seeking the common good in dialogue across differences.
 
Washington University in St. Louis

Washington University in St. Louis

“I wanted to start a Knowledge for Freedom program because I believe, as Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois reminds us, that education must not simply teach work; but it must also teach life.”

 
Washington University in St. Louis

Citizenship and Freedom: From Plato to Maya

Lerone A. Martin, Director of American Culture Studies & Associate Professor of Religion and Politics, John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics
I wanted to start a Knowledge for Freedom program because I believe, as Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois reminds us, that education must not simply teach work; but it must also teach life. Citizenship and Freedom: From Plato to Maya will build upon the well-established programmatic infrastructure of Washington University’s STEM-oriented College Prep Program to introduce promising, underserved high school students to college-level work in the humanities for which they will receive college credit, as well as assist them in improving their writing and verbal skills, and equip them with the historical knowledge and critical tools necessary to participate fully in American public life as active citizens. Students will then apply this knowledge to a civic engagement project during the school year. Thanks to the Teagle Foundation we are on our way to introducing students to college-level work in the liberal arts as a pathway to success not only in college admissions, but ultimately to a life of engaged citizenship.
 
Yale University

Yale University

"Working with aspiring first-generation college students in New Haven has transformed my understanding of the potential in seminar discussions."

 
Yale University

Citizens Thinkers Writers

Bryan Garsten, Professor of Political Science and Humanities
Starting the Citizens Thinkers Writers program has been one of the highlights of my professional life. I had been working hard on helping to create Yale-NUS College in Singapore, an exciting initiative, but as my role in that project ended, I found myself wanting to focus much closer to home. I grew up in the New Haven area, and saw how scientists at Yale were encouraged to engage with the local community through the requirements of their NSF grants. Why didn't more humanists do the same? Inspired by Columbia's Freedom and Citizenship program, and lucky to find two fantastic partners on campus, I pitched the idea, found some resources, and we dove in. Working with aspiring first-generation college students in New Haven has transformed my understanding of the potential in seminar discussions. Such a simple activity -- reading fundamental texts and talking about them around a table -- brings shy, thoughtful students out of their shells. Many of our students come in thinking of their thoughtfulness mainly as a social liability. Our program teaches them to be proud of their reflective nature, and to take the risk of sharing their thoughts in conversation and in writing. And I have learned a lot from our conversations. I have grown more attuned to the presumptions of meritocracy and I have developed a better understanding of the intrinsic value of the humanities. I also feel my life has been enriched by the relationships we have formed with teachers, principals, police officers, artists, poets, local politicians, NGO leaders, and others in the community who have happily collaborated with us on programming for our students. I am more convinced than ever that universities have an obligation to develop substantive relationships with their home communities and to help create spaces for reflection and discussion, and that doing so will bring benefits to both the community and the university.
 
Columbia University

Columbia University

"Every summer, I see students waking up to a broader sense of themselves and of the world around them."


 
Columbia University

Freedom and Citizenship

Roosevelt Montás (Founder), Senior Lecturer in American Studies and English:
I helped start and continue to teach in the Freedom and Citizenship Program because I know first-hand how education can transform a life.  I identify strongly with the students who show up in my classroom every summer and love having the kinds of conversations with them that I would have found most illuminating and inspriing when I was a recent immigrant still struggling with English.  Every summer, I see students waking up to a broader sense of themselves and of the world around them.  But beyond these personal resonances, I teach in this program because I believe its mission is critical to the future of our democracy.  It is among the most significant things I can do as a citizen; it as a high-impact fertilizer to the soil of our democracy. 
University of Rochester

University of Rochester

"The decision to call the summer program for high school students at the University of Rochester 'Experiencing Civic Life' signals a central reason why I am committed to our Teagle Foundation-funded project."
 
University of Rochester

Experiencing Civic Life

Joan Rubin, Professor in History:
The decision to call the summer program for high school students at the University of Rochester 'Experiencing Civic Life' signals a central reason why I am committed to our Teagle Foundation-funded project. Classic texts in the humanities raise vital questions about authority, freedom, citizenship, and social responsibility:  issues that have become especially pressing in the era of COVID-19.  The critical thinking that reading together promotes is essential for informed decision-making in a democracy.  I have also had an unusual career for an American academic because for more than forty years, at two different institutions, I have taught in the place where I grew up:  Rochester.  This circumstance has meant that I have deep knowledge about the local area and an equally deep conviction that the university must overcome its traditional isolation from its surrounding community—and particularly from high school students.  Our program enables me to act on that belief in an especially rewarding way.
 
At the same time, my hopes for ‘Experiencing Civic Life’ rest on the individual benefits the program promises as well as the communal ones.  In this respect, I am guided by a quotation that I discovered in the course of my research as an American cultural historian—one that I find that I rely on whenever I am asked why a university needs a Humanities Center, and why our Center is the home base for “Experiencing Civic Life.”  In 1925, a nineteen-year-old woman wrote a fan letter to the American novelist Edna Ferber explaining why she had dropped out of college.  Instead of delving deeply into the subject, she reported, her history instructor had merely skimmed the surface, telling students that he wanted them to be able to “look intelligent” in conversation.  “Oh, Edna Ferber,” the letter-writer exclaimed, “I didn’t want my outsides polished.  I wanted things done to the inside of me.”
 
The personally transformative potential of ‘Experiencing Civic Life—not only giving high school students the confidence that they can do college work, but also changing their ‘insides’ as they connect with other human beings past and present—is its most exciting feature.  It’s made my ‘insides’ different, too.
 

News & Resources

08.04.2014 | TEAGLE IN THE NEWS

Plato and the Promise of College

Frank Bruni, Op-Ed Columnist of The New York Times, describes his visit to Columbia University’s “Freedom and Citizenship” program, a model Knowledge for Freedom program.
 
Plato and the Promise of College >
01.09.2015 | TEAGLE IN THE NEWS

An Intimate Education

Tamara Mann Tweel reflects on her experience teaching a summer course to low-income high school students on great books.
 
An Intimate Education >
04.03.2017 | TEAGLE IN THE NEWS

Democratizing the Great Books

Educators of whatever political disposition should introduce students to the history of ideas that have shaped our contemporary world, write Casey N. Blake, Roosevelt Montás and Tamara Mann Tweel
 
Democratizing the Great Books >