The Paideia Fellowship brings together humanities students and professors from Villanova University, the University of Pennsylvania, Swarthmore College, Bryn Mawr College and the Templeton Honors College to participate in an ongoing conversation regarding the study of the humanities as a discipline. We frequently meet for meals followed by facilitated discussion and sometimes gather for cultural outings in the city that contribute to our conversations.
I have had the honor of participating in the Paideia Fellowship since its beginning roughly two years ago. I like to think that it’s one of our best-kept secrets, and, for that reason, it is well worth talking about. I have been blessed by the friendships I have made throughout the years as a member of the fellowship and have grown substantially in my understanding of the humanities as a discipline worth pursuing for its own sake.
The question at the core of the fellowship is, “How do the humanities humanize us?” This question at first might appear redundant or self-evident, but that could not be farther from the truth. I have found that it is not only through study of the humanities that we connect with something deeply human in all of us; we also draw on the ideals of relationships as embodied in the text. It is becoming more and more clear to me that education is worth nothing if it does not teach us how to love others better and more deeply. It is not through the reading of philosophy and sociology alone that we become better, but it is through and because of other people that this happens. Paideia has given me an avenue to find and create beautiful, rich and lasting friendships with people who care similarly about the state of the world and what it means to live a good life. This is where the humanization occurs: as we learn to love one another, we learn more about what it means to be human, and more importantly, what it means to be a good human.
As a member of the Paideia Fellowship, I have received support and mentorship from Villanova and University of Pennsylvania professors that I would never have had the chance to meet otherwise. Their guidance and expertise have been great blessings to me and my peers. Each time we meet, we invite a guest speaker to accompany us to help facilitate our discussions. Sometimes we even have the honor of learning directly from the author whose piece we read in preparation for that evening’s discussion.
This past semester we focused on the theme of “Disenchantment in the Modern World,” and our conversations were incredibly enlightening. We discussed Dr. Eugene McCarraher’s essay entitled, “We Have Never Been Disenchanted,” as well as Dr. Chad Wellmon’s piece entitled, “Sacred Reading: From Augustine to the Digital Humanists.” Our conversations traversed ideas of whether our world has been re-enchanted or thoroughly disenchanted, what our duty is given both of these options and what this means for the state of our education and academic institutions. It is through conversations like these that I became so deeply convinced that studying the humanities is not only worthwhile but truly necessary for our society. Studying these things makes us better friends and teaches us how to love other people, which is what a disenchanted world needs.
The Paideia Fellowship has helped me learn how to better interact with our times, love other people in a world void of enchantment and never stop talking about the humanities, as it is true that they humanize us.
This article was first published at templetonhonorscollege.org.