The Paideia Faculty Colloquia

 

On the Occasion of the Establishment
of the Paideia Faculty Colloquia:

The purpose and inspiration for the establishment of the Paideia faculty colloquia is the conviction that when teachers of undergraduates are separated from the life of the mind and the love of learning that originally inspired their desire to become scholars, they become less effective as teachers and learners.  It is therefore vital to the teaching purpose of Assumption College, as an institution of higher learning providing a liberal education to its graduates, that we establish this forum for dialogue and conversation among faculty (and students). These colloquia are intended to nourish and sustain our commitment to a shared scholarly and intellectual life. More pragmatically, faculty need time and space for conversation about ideas that is carefully separated from the time we reserve for meetings and other activities focusing upon institutional processes and procedures.  Without shared intellectual community, these other integral parts of academic life will be less collaborative and less productive. The Paideia Colloquia are intended to support the teaching and administering of an undergraduate liberal education indirectly by fostering intellectual community.
The term “paideia” recalls the ancient Greek concept of education for full participation in civic life. This kind of education and character development is central to the mission of Assumption College and the Ecumenical Institute’s commitment to a dialogue of faith and culture. Classical Greek paideia included the subjects which came to be the basis of the liberal arts in the Middle Ages, and eventually the inspiration for the study of the liberal arts in contemporary American higher education.  Paideia means more than merely the acquisition of certain skills and information, but also the cultivation of dispositions suited to living the good life and participating in one’s political community to foster the common good.  The focus of paideia is therefore excellence (arete or virtue) widely understood, and it concerns excellence in every endeavor. Our emphasis upon paideia therefore includes an openness to professional excellence and athletic endeavor, although our primary purpose is to foster intellectual community.
Mortimer Adler established a “National Paideia Center” at University of North Carolina in 1988, to implement a renaissance of the Greek concept of paideia.  Adler’s center provides seminars and professional development, especially for primary and secondary public educators.  Our purpose is not to duplicate Adler’s program, but the colloquia are inspired by some of his educational principles, which are well aligned with our own mission as a liberal arts college with professional studies programs.

In his work of short aphorisms entitled Paradoxes of Faith the Catholic theologian Henri de Lubac described a transformation of mind and heart that we hope the Paideia Faculty Colloquia will sustain for our faculty, and help them to foster in their students:

The day comes when one sees, all at once, that all those “abstract” problems which were perhaps difficult to understand are not mere schoolwork, boring for some, interesting or even exciting for others; one sees that they are urgent problems, problems that pose the reality of life, that concern it wholly, and whose solution matters extremely. From that day on, philosophic reflection takes on a different character. (Henri de Lubac, Paradoxes of Faith, V).

As St. Augustine realized, however, liberal ‘education’ cannot merely be ‘instruction’.  Whereas instruction aims to place some information into the student, education seeks to draw understanding and deeper wisdom out of the student. Since education is a transformative rather than merely an informative endeavor, educators must achieve their ends largely through modeling the life of the mind, including its inherent attractiveness, for the student. The Paideia Faculty Colloquia are designed to create the shared intellectual community of scholars and learners that will bring this about.

2012 Paideia Faculty Colloquium

2011 Paideia Faculty Colloquium

2010 Paideia Faculty Colloquium