Remarkable Moment

In Democracy and Education, John Dewey writes, “The most notable distinction between living and inanimate beings is that the former maintain themselves by renewal.” Though his formative book on education was published when Woodrow Wilson was president, Dewey’s words still inform the College’s distinctive pedagogy and speak even now to the moment in which Sarah Lawrence finds itself—a time of renewal.

On October 6, 2017, Cristle Collins Judd became the 11th president of this pioneering institution. Marking Judd’s arrival, the College hosted a two-day celebration and launched a yearlong exploration of a timely, Dewey-inspired theme: democracy and education. In her address at the inaugural ceremony, Judd spoke eloquently to Sarah Lawrence’s longstanding tradition of creativity and innovation while introducing the theme and emphasizing its vital importance to the College in today’s political landscape.

During a symposium the same day, moderator Gregg M. Horowitz ’80, Sarah Lawrence trustee, described Dewey’s philosophy of education as “an ethical touchstone.” Delving into the ways democracy and education are deeply connected, the symposium conversation featured thoughtful observations from distinguished speakers—Martha Minow, the Carter Professor of General Jurisprudence at Harvard Law School; Salamishah Tillet, associate professor of English and Africana studies at the University of Pennsylvania; and Daniel Weiss, chief executive officer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art—as well as probing questions from students.

“The values and skills refined by a progressive liberal arts education are especially central in equipping us to be capable and worthy of self-government,” Horowitz noted. “Open-mindedness, the courage to sustain uncertainty and doubt, the desire to take on board other points of view and the self-criticisms they provoke, the ability to take responsibility for one’s own ideas, and the willingness to participate in collective deliberation and collective decision making—citizens educated into these powers are citizens capable and worthy of democracy.”