A Life-Changing, Salvific Program: Humanizing Education Policy 2020

From July 7-August 1, 2020, I met online three times a week for four hours with 18 students from across the country to study the foundational philosophical questions in education policy. The program, modeled on Scala’s past summer program “Rediscovering Integral Humanism,” also incorporated the seven Love of Learning webinars from the spring and summer of 2020 to supplement the readings. Although all 12 sessions took place online due to the COVD pandemic, students’ reflections illustrate once again the core principles of Scala: when good ideas, motivated students and a passionate, knowledgeable teacher meet, learning is transformative. Read below to see how this program clarified philosophical assumptions behind educational methods, showed students the importance of learning as an end in and of itself, and demonstrated that a classical liberal arts education is adaptable to a variety of contexts. Many of these students are already implementing what they learned in their DC internships with policy organizations and federal agencies, and others are taking these questions into their own advanced studies.

Instructor: Margarita Mooney, Scala Foundation

Guest Speakers: Congresswoman Virginia Foxx, Professor Hank Edmondson, Professor Daryl DiMarzio, and Stephen Adubato

Students who completed this course received three credits from the Pepperdine School of Public Policy.

Reflections from the  2020 Scala Foundation and Pepperdine School of Public Policy DC Summer Scholars Program “Humanizing Education Policy: A Study of Foundational Philosophies”

“Thank you so very much Professor Mooney for a salvific four weeks. You have pushed the horizons of my imagination, which, as Maritain points out, is the best thing one can do to expand the freedom of one’s mind. This course was phenomenal. Life-changing. Professor Mooney is excellent and the material is excellent. Our dialogic experience together has made me feel that I can freely engage with great books. The course has made me want to become an educator, as the readings did a great job of communicating the importance of education and the passion/drama of the teacher-student relationship.” Alex. H., Yale University student

“I would highly recommend this seminar to anyone interested in the broader fields of philosophy, education and public policy. I would describe this seminar as a challenge well-worth every minute you put into it. The readings, class discussions, lectures and other aspects of the seminar have made this class one of the best I’ve ever taken. This class challenges your ideas, provokes discussion, and forces you to come to grips with the diverse education methods in the USA.” Leah S., Wheaton College student

“This experience has greatly informed how I view my own educational pursuits. I think the question of “What is education doing if it’s not educating the human person?” and the question of “What is the end of education?” has greatly sparked powerful reflection about how I am personally approaching education and how I hoped to eventually reform or execute education at a policy or administrative level. This class has helped me become more critical of the educational institutions that I am in, but in a way where I see room for improvement.” –Angel P.,  Florida State University student

“Humanizing Education Policy is about having the conversations that policy makers are not having, conversations about virtue, character formation, and learning as an end in itself. These conversations are important because they recognize public policy as it applies to humans.” Nathan U., Ashland University graduate and Associate Director of Curricular Improvement, American Council of Trustees and Alumni

“Overall I very much enjoyed this class.  Dr. Mooney did a wonderful job of incorporating both contemporary and traditional thinkers, putting them into conversation with one another, and relating them to current problems within education.  As a young professional, I always appreciate the opportunity to take a step back from the day to day business of life and consider the important questions behind where I am and why, and where I should be aiming in the future.” –Catherine F., Benedictine College graduate and Confidential Assistant within the Office of the General Counsel, Federal Department of Education

“This class offered an invaluable deep dive into intensive academic study during my time as a working professional in DC. I would love to learn about more relevant academic resources (publications, authors, books, podcasts, etc) for continued learning about the topics of the course, and even opportunities to continue writing and publishing about these important ideas as well. I think this course provides students with a close look at the core ideas of learning that get at the heart of human meaning. Our ever-distracted culture aches for such fundamental truths, and I hope Pepperdine continues to offer this important course and others like it.” -Elayne A., Baylor University graduate and research assistant in the Social, Cultural, and Constitutional Studies Department of the American Enterprise Institute

“My experience in the Pepperdine DC Scholars program has pushed me to think about the practical applications of education policy stemming from a holistic understanding of the human person.Jared A., Pepperdine School of Public Policy

This class has rekindled in me a desire to teach. I’m not sure in what form– maybe, continuing the tutoring I already do, or at the high school or collegiate level. It has also pushed me to pursue knowledge outside of my disciplines (political science & economics) and to read great books, biographies, and more from many of the authors we read.” Madelynn E., Western Kentucky University student.

“This also matters when we look at education policy. I think the course has reemphasized the importance of a holistic approach when looking at contemporary issues. As I prepare for my graduate studies, it was a helpful way to reorient myself with important foundational texts and to critically reflect upon them. Dr. Mooney noted the importance of the past as a starting point for education. I think looking at education in the U.S. today (before the influx of COVID) it is of utmost importance to do this if we want to create meaningful change to our education system.” –Sadaf D., George Washington University student.

“This seminar has exposed me to new concepts of education and varying philosophical approaches to education. However, it has also reinforced my own beliefs in the importance of a liberal arts education.  Additionally, this course inspired me to continually research the philosophy, from all perspectives, when crafting policy plans.” Allison K., Capital University graduate and Staff Assistant to Congresswoman Ann Wagner