Wednesday Night Reading Group “On Freedom and Democracy…” ☆

Wednesday Night Reading Group

~ Spring 2012 ~

“On Freedom and Democracy . . .”

This semester’s reading group will look at the meaning and promise of freedom, a philosophical concept whose contradictions have troubled and inspired political theorists and educational philosophers since the Ancient World. As educators concerned with musical agency and an independence of mind, we might, like Dewey, connect the concept of freedom to democratic and moral values.  “Democracy means freeing intelligence for independent effectiveness – the emancipation of mind as an individual organ to do its own work. We naturally associate democracy, to be sure, with freedom of action, but freedom of action without freed capacity of thought behind it is only chaos.  If external authority in action is given up, it must be because internal authority of truth, discovered and known to reason, is substituted.” For Dewey, democracy cannot be realized (or even attempted) until the capacity to inquire is freed from the yoke of dogma and authoritarianism. Freedom cannot be claimed until external control is released. Yet for positive freedom to be achieved, and for democracy to be enacted, an internal source of authority must located.

But how? In an age of teacher de-professionalization and external control, freedom and democracy are quite likely the last thing on our minds – or even shunned as meaningless. Former New York State Commissioner David M. Steiner is quoted as saying that education schools spend too much time on abstract notions “like the role of school in democracy” and too little time on evidence-based methods (New York Times, April 19, 2010). Nevertheless, in the face of silence around this topic, our goal this semester will be to open up this conceptual coupling. We will not view democracy or freedom as metaphysical states that exist in a distance or as a dream. Nor will we envision freedom as the mere absence of external restraints. Power, capacity, growth, agency: as ideals, they require practical work; and as valued ends, they are located in acts of achievement. Regarding music teacher education, we will search for a pedagogy of freedom. With the exercise of freedom, and with preparation that is collaborative and ethical, might come a new generation of music teacher leadership.


1.  Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Immanuel Kant, “An Answer to the Question: ‘What is Enlightenment’?”

Hard copies available, Russell 302, 7:30 – 9:00 pm.

2.  Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Fyodor Dostoevsky, “Rebellion” and “The Grand Inquisitor” from The Brothers Karamazov.

Please purchase, Russell 302, 7:30 – 9:00 pm.

3.  Wednesday, February 29, 2012

J. S. Mills, “On Liberty”

Please purchase, Russell 302, 7:30 – 9:00 pm.

4.  Monday, March 19, 2012

Isaiah Berlin, “Two Concepts of Liberty”

Hard copies available, Russell 302, 7:30 – 9:00 pm.

5.  Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Jacques Ranciere, The Ignorant Schoolmaster: Five Lessons in Intellectual Emancipation

Please purchase, Russell 302, 7:30 – 9:00 pm.

6.  Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed

Please purchase, Russell 302, 7:30 – 9:00 pm.

7.  Wednesday, May 2, 2012

John Dewey, Moral Principles in Education

Please purchase, Russell 302, 7:30 – 9:00 pm.