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25 JUL/14
The Political Theory of Hannah Arendt: The Problem of Evil and the Origins
of Totalitarianism, a five-week seminar hosted at Bard College this summer.
Professor Kathy Jones The Arendt seminar was taught by Kathy Jones,
professor emerita of Women's Studies at San Diego State University who has
published widely on Arendt and feminist political theory.
Professor Jones was also assisted by two scholars: Hannah Spector, Assistant
Professor of Education in the School of Behavioral Sciences and Education at
Penn State Harrisburg; andRoger Berkowitz, Academic Director of the Hannah
Arendt Center at Bard College and Associate Professor of Political Studies
and Human Rights at Bard College.
Leon Botstein, President of Bard College, also spoke with the group, as did
several other members of the Bard faculty.
16 applicants were chosen to participate in the Arendt seminar. Among them
was Bill Tolley, the Learning and Innovation Coach and Head of the History
Department at the International School of Curitiba-Brazil. Recently, Tolley
wrote an article describing his experience as an NEH scholar for the Center
for Teaching Equality. He had nothing but great things to say:
My comrades are brilliant, professional and witty and our conversations on
free will, the utter loathsomeness of Adolf Eichmann, and Hannah's
chain-smoking start well before 1PM and continue well after dark.
One of the things both Tolley and Professor Jones appreciated most about the
seminar was its flexibility when it came to allowing each participant to
explore the course content on their own terms. Professor Jones comments:
At the seminar's end, each teacher presented a project developed during the
summer's research. These included both curricular materials for the
humanities and social science' classrooms and artistic expressions (poetry,
personal essays, staged theatrical readings) of themes from Arendt's work on
such topics as friendship, statelessness, plurality, forgiveness, and "love
of the world." Yet, these projects no more represent the meaning of the
seminar to anyone in the group, myself included, than test scores represent
a student's learning.
"Meaning" is an elusive, yet eminently human concept. I cannot speak for the
teachers, but, for me, the seminar means the chance to sit around a table
and think and talk about the human condition with a diverse group of people,
each one "the same, that is human, in such a way that [no one] is ever the
same as anyone who ever lived, lives, or will live." What I "get" from this
experience is learning all over again why Arendt matters not only for the
"what" of her writing, but its capacity to provoke fundamental questions
about education as an activity of loving the world enough to take
responsibility for it.
The seminar was made possible by the National Endowment for the Humanities
(NEH), whoseSummer Seminars and Institutes for School Teachers are designed
to immerse primary and secondary school teachers in significant study of the


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