Students, professors, alumni and other individuals from across the University community gathered Monday, Oct. 30, at the Brooklyn Campus to listen to Tamara Mann Tweel, Ph.D., program director for civic initiatives at The Teagle Foundation, deliver the St. Joseph’s Founders Day Lecture.
Dr. Tweel spoke of the importance of humanities education and American colleges’ role in teaching individuals how to live and participate in democracy in a free society.
“We need to know why this form of government is unique and valuable. We need to know our laws. We need to know the requirements of citizenship — serving on a jury, paying taxes, voting,” said Dr. Tweel, who is also a professor in the American Studies Program at Columbia University. “These are some of the basics, but there’s actually something else we need to know.
“We need to know how to learn about one another to become a self-governing society. We don’t govern alone. We govern together,” she added, speaking in the Tuohy Hall auditorium.
Dr. Tweel further stressed that higher education should equip citizens with the emotional skills necessary for participating in democracy. She said it is paramount for higher education to equip students with the following skills:
- Ability to empathize with lives different than their own.
- Capacity to see an issue from multiple perspectives.
- How to engage in civil discourse and honest debate.
- To listen.
“There is no better place to do this work than in a humanities classroom,” Dr. Tweel said. “In a humanities classroom, students from all walks of life sit together and study something in common, a shared text. The text creates a moment of unity and that moment of unity opens a path for our differences to be truly explored.”
Education has the potential to sow division, promoting hatred, self-righteousness and superiority, both through explicit curricula and unspoken messages,” she told the crowd.
“Education – we need to remember – can tear us apart,” Dr. Tweel said. “We can learn to hate. We can learn that we are right, and that other people, in the past or present, are wrong. We can learn that we are better, and other people are worse… We can learn it deliberately in a curriculum, or more often than not, we can learn it on margins.
“We can learn by what is not said, by what is not taught,” she added.
St. Joseph’s hosts its Founders Day Lecture annually, to celebrate the founding of the institution and the achievements and contributions of its founders, the Sisters of St. Joseph. The institution was founded in 1916.