Johnson Center Lecturer Discusses Democratic Citizenry and the Liberal Arts
Austin College will present the annual A.J. Carlson Lecture on the Liberal Arts on Thursday, September 13, featuring Dr. Roosevelt Montás of Columbia University. His lecture, “Liberal Education and Democratic Citizenship,” will be held at 5 p.m. in Wright Campus Center’s Mabee Hall, preceded by a 4 p.m. reception. Both events are free and open to the public.
Montás will address the role of liberal arts education in today’s current political moments and how studying the origins of liberal democracy prepares students for democratic citizenship.
At a time when many Americans lament the “failure of democracy,” Montás writes that “there is a case to be made that universities have been not only negligent but complicit in the deterioration of these values and in the parlous state of our public discourse.”
In an article published earlier in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Montás wrote, “To ‘educate’ is to nurture an individual into a particular community. We must recognize plainly that all education is education for citizenship. What we teach, how we teach it, and whom we teach it to necessarily describe a vision of society and of the types of individuals we want to prepare for that society. Values don’t merely infiltrate education from the outside, as ideological add-ons, but are constitutive of the very practice of teaching. It is more urgent than ever for colleges to break the stranglehold of specialization on undergraduate curricula and to educate students with an awareness of what is required to produce an informed citizenry.”
At Columbia University, Montás specializes in antebellum American literature and culture, with a particular interest in American citizenship and national identity. He graduated from Columbia in 1995 with a major in comparative literature. By 2003 he had completed a Ph.D. in English, also at Columbia, and began teaching in the English Department there in 2004. He has been associate dean of academic affairs and director of the Center for the Core Curriculum since 2008.
This Austin College lecture honors the late Dr. A.J. “Jack” Carlson, who joined the Austin College history faculty in 1962. He also served as dean of Humanities for many years and was a leading voice in defense of liberal arts education. He retired as professor emeritus in 1994 and remained active in the campus community until his death in 2014. The lecture is presented by Austin College’s Robert and Joyce Johnson Center for Faculty Development and Excellence in Teaching, directed by Dr. Randi Tanglen, associate professor of English. The Johnson Center schedules a number of events throughout the year, with presentations by Austin College faculty and guest lecturers.
“The A.J. Carlson Lecture in the Liberal Arts is an opportunity for the entire campus to reflect deeply on the changing meaning of a liberal arts education,” Tanglen said. “The liberal arts education provided at Austin College emphasizes development of abilities in critical thinking, communication, collaboration, empathy, and social awareness within the foundation of a broad-based understanding of the world. These are the very characteristics needed by the diverse participants in a vibrant and healthy democracy.”
Austin College, a private national liberal arts college located north of Dallas in Sherman, Texas, has earned a reputation for excellence in academic preparation, international study, pre-professional foundations, leadership development, committed faculty, and hands-on, adventurous learning opportunities. One of 40 schools profiled in Loren Pope’s influential book Colleges That Change Lives, Austin College boasts a welcoming community that embraces diversity and individuality, with more than 40 percent of students representing ethnic minorities. A residential student body of approximately 1,300 students and a faculty of more than 100 allow a 13:1 student-faculty ratio and personalized attention. The College is related by covenant to the Presbyterian Church (USA) and cultivates an inclusive atmosphere that supports students’ faith journeys regardless of religious tradition. Founded in 1849, the College is the oldest institution of higher education in Texas operating under original name and charter.