St. John’s College, Santa Fe: Democracy, Liberal Education, and the Common Good
St. John’s College in Santa Fe, New Mexico invites paper proposals for a 2020 symposium on democracy, liberal education, and the common good. The conference will be held at St. John’s College in Santa Fe, New Mexico, April 24-26, 2020. The deadline for submission is February 24, 2020.
From classical antiquity to the present, the liberal arts and the tradition of liberal education have a particular significance for democratic life, the health of which depends on the broad cultivation of thoughtful citizens capable of deliberating well and exercising their birthright of political liberty. The liberally educated citizen should be prepared to engage in political life—a life of “words and deeds”—and, at the same time, should be best prepared to understand the nature and limits of politics and of all forms of government.
These are permanent goals of liberal education. However, the current moment, in America and abroad, appears to raise the stakes still higher, if that is possible. Globalization and the various forms of backlash against it (nationalist and populist). Hyper-partisanship and the erosion of civility and moderation in our political discourse. Technological disruption in the digital age—e.g., the power of social media and AI—and its various consequences for journalism and a free press, for our perception of a shared world of facts and truth, for our discourse with others, and for what we consider to be public and private spheres. Income and wealth inequality, and related fragmentations along lines of education, class, race, gender, and geography. The tension between the long arc of secularization in the modern West and trenchant or resurgent traditional religious beliefs.
All of these present concerns and others, further electrified in a presidential election year, heighten the need for thoughtful, educated, prepared citizens and leaders. Accordingly, we are moved to come together and share reflections, both “timeless and timely”, on the nature and practice of political life, as well as “democracy in America” and in the world.
Themes of papers may include a broad array of reflections on classic texts and traditional inquiries into politics, democracy, and citizenship, covering, for example, Plato, Aristotle, Thucydides, Plutarch, Livy, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, American founding documents, Lincoln, Douglass, Kant, Hegel, Mill, Tocqueville, Marx, DuBois, Rawls, Arendt, and so on, as well as literary works that explore related themes. The organizers also invite reflection directly on present concerns: the impact of technology on journalism and media, as well as our social and political life; the role of civility in politics, including academic politics; the current global challenges to the post-Cold War international liberal order; the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong and related movements; the impact of emerging technologies on privacy and on freedom; the role of architecture and design in framing our public and civic spaces; the role of educators in preparing our students for responsible citizenship; the ongoing vitality of the liberal arts and fine arts as ends in themselves, in a time of increasing economic, vocational, and cultural challenges; the role of religion in the public square; and so on. The symposium is intended to be an expansive and open conversation, welcoming a wide range of paper proposals, but with a recognizable coherence and concentration around thoughtful engagement with political life—past, present, and future.
The conference organizers invite paper or panel proposals from faculty (as well as from undergraduate and graduate students). Papers should be 10–20 minutes (5–10 pages), and will be organized in panels of 3–4 papers (there will be specified times for concurrent undergraduate and graduate student panels). Panels may also be proposed jointly by several presenters. All panels will be designed and scheduled with an eye to extended conversation after papers have been presented. All conference events will be hosted on campus (with lodging available in central Santa Fe).
Proposals should include:
- A 1-2 page abstract of your proposed paper;
- contact information;
- institutional affiliation (including department or program);
- status as faculty, undergraduate/graduate student, or other;
- as well as a 1-2 paragraph abstract of your proposed paper.
It will be assumed that panelists are available on Friday (after 1 p.m. MST), Saturday, or Sunday morning (up to 1 p.m.). If you are unavailable any of those days, please specify which days you are not available.
Please send paper proposals as attachments to by February 24, 2020. Please cc Assistant Conference Coordinator, Kelsey Hennegen at .
Paper/panel proposals will be reviewed and responded to on a rolling basis for planning purposes, but the organizers will save space for and consider all proposals received up to the deadline.
The deadline for submission is February 24, 2020.
St. John’s College’s distinctive liberal arts curriculum and educational practices have long given it a highly respected place among American colleges and universities. Its strong commitment to collaborative inquiry and to the study of original texts makes St. John’s College a particularly vibrant community of learning. Through close engagement with the works of some of the world’s greatest writers and thinkers—from Homer, Plato, and Euclid to Nietzsche, Einstein, and Woolf—undergraduate and graduate students at St. John’s College grapple with fundamental questions that confront us as human beings. As they participate in lively discussions and throw themselves into the activity of translating, writing, demonstrating, conducting experiments, and analyzing musical compositions, St. John’s students learn to speak articulately, read attentively, reason effectively, and think creatively.
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