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Preserving Democracy Through Arts and Education

HON 398 - Professor Frank Gawle

Modes of Inquiry: Textual Analysis, Artistic Creation and Analysis, Historical, Social and Cultural Analysis

Course Description:

Since Thomas Jefferson, much hope has been placed in public education as the vehicle with which to insure an enlightened electorate in the new democracy. However, today the schools in America and the teachers that toil within their walls, are currently bearing much of the blame for the ails of our society. We will explore the mainstream issues of education, particularly during the past century, in terms of its effectiveness as a placeholder or change agent for our society. One central activity will involve the students identifying the three most important problems we face in America today. We will then trace their genesis, and focus on meaningful reforms to public education as a means of pursuing long-term solutions that will preserve the democracy.

The great philosophers since the time of Plato and Aristotle have pondered the nature of truth. Our founding fathers were guided by the enlightenment notions of reason, equality, progress, secularism, economics and politics, and populist government, all undoubtedly connected to the creation of a localized system of public education. We will trace the history of those ideals as they are manifested in our founding documents.

While rapid innovations in technology have placed the sum total of human knowledge at the fingertips of students, their ability to sift through and properly weigh information for truth may be declining. We will also explore the nature of study, thought and truth and attempt to wade through the spectrum of daily information through discussion and debate of current issues, with particular emphasis on education.

Finally, the arts have been recognized as central to education since Plato and Socrates argued their origin and purpose and they remain vital to our society for a variety of reasons both intellectual and spiritual. We value expressions of our existence through the fine and performing arts and we revere great artists and the artifacts that define their work. We will examine research that weighs the significance of the arts in education with the purpose of developing advocacy tools that may help preserve future audiences, and for the purpose of reinforcing the importance of the arts in an enlightened and progressive society.