Foundations: Reviving the Spirit of Liberal Learning

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“Foundations” are new series of classes conducted by the Dallas Institute’s Cowan Center for Education to revive in the hearts and minds of those who teach and lead the spirit of liberal learning that is being lost through the increasingly technologized, standardized educational trends of our day. The spirit of learning we are in danger of losing has long been considered essential to a free people—“free” from liber, hence “liberal learning”—and must be regained if we are to conduct ourselves as informed, prudent, and empathetic citizens as well as to foster the deep love of learning that transforms us throughout life.

Rather than a focus on techniques or methodologies, in “Foundations,” the emphasis is on the study of great primary works for the seminal questions that they explore and on entering the distinct ways of knowing the world and the human experience made accessible by each discipline.

Each course is taught by a special team of faculty—colleagues who are expert both in their content knowledge and in the methodologies and the philosophy of the Cowan Center—thus creating a dynamic and unique learning experience for every session.

For Pre-K-12 Educators.

Fall 2016 Foundations at the Cowan Center

For Pre-K—12 Educators Renewing the love of learning through civilized study in an intimate setting that honors the work and calling of the teacher and leader.

Democracy in America

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Featured speaker: Dr. Thomas Lindsay [bio]

Tocqueville’s Democracy in America; A Foundations Series by the Dallas Institute’s Cowan Center for Education

Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America is a classic that everyone knows but few have read. This class is designed to begin correcting that educational oversight.

We will gather on three Saturdays with an expert political philosopher and brilliant teacher, Dr. Thomas Lindsay, to explore from the text a few of the most fundamental political ideas that we, as Americans, should visit again and again: what American democracy is, what the nature of “majority rule” in America is, and how modern democracy might balance liberty and equality.

We will be using the Lawrence translation (Harper Perennial Modern Classics edition) and the pages identified below are from that edition. Although we encourage you to read the entire volume, the pages identified below will be the focus of that class.

Saturday, September 17, 1-3:00 PM Class one excerpts from Tocqueville

Volume I: “Tocqueville’s Introduction” (pp. 9-20); “The American System of

Townships” (pp. 62-63); “Advantages of the Federal System . . .” (pp. 155-158)

Saturday, October 22, 1-3:00 PM

            Volume I: “The Principle of the Sovereignty of the People in America” (pp. 58-60)

and “The Omnipotence of the Majority in the United States and Its Effects” (pp.


Saturday, November 19, 1-3:00 PM

            Volume I: “The American System of Townships” (pp. 62-63); Volume II, Part II:

“The Influence of Democracy on the Sentiments of Americans” (pp. 503-558) and

Volume I, Chapter 8 “Absence of Administrative Centralization” (pp. 262-263)

Feed Your Soul. Stir Your Mind.

For Pre-K—12 Educators
Three Saturdays, 1-3 pm, $20 per session
Registration: September 17 | October 22 | November 19

Past Foundations courses

The Epic: Cervantes’ Don Quixote

A must read for every teacher, join a special team of Cowan Center faculty to read (or reread), discuss, and study a true world classic, the work that is called the first novel, the book that gave us the first comic duo and the first epic anti-hero of the modern
age. Books are available at the Dallas Institute upon registration.

A Brief History of Mathematics, Part I

Each class taught by a humanist and a mathematician, this world survey of the history of mathematics from pre-historical primitive counting and number bases to the cusp of modern mathematics in the seventeenth century will allow us to explore the historical context of mathematical paradigms as well as practice the mathematics themselves.

Virgil’s Aeneid and Machiavelli’s The Prince

A classical leader’s virtue and pieties held up against modern sensibilities such as, “the promise given was a necessity of the past: the word broken is a necessity of the present.”  How do Aeneas and the Prince differ? How are they the same?  A skilled team of literary and political philosophy scholars will guide the study of these most provocative, foundational works.

Plato’s Republic

For social studies and history teachers but open to all Pre-K—12 educators.

Alfred North Whitehead once described the Western philosophical tradition as “a series of footnotes to Plato,” and the Republic is widely regarded as the most foundational and important of the Platonic dialogues. Read more

Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov

For English, language/arts teachers but open to all Pre-K—12 educators.

“Foundations” for English, language/arts teachers began with Dostoevsky’s final—and arguably the best—novel, The Brothers KaramazovRead more

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