events archive

University in One Day

A day of liberal arts and philosophy
for 16- to 19-year-olds

9:00am, Wednesday 1 July 2015, Goodenough College, Mecklenburgh Square, London WC1N 2AB

The aim of this event is to open up the spirit of liberal humanist self-education to those on the cusp of university – whether in sixth form, FE college or on a gap year - to give them a taste of ‘university as it should be’.

Inspired by the Institute of Ideas’ residential summer school, The Academy, the first University in One Day (U1D) marks the launch of a national series of liberal-arts events aimed at 16- to 19-year-olds who are interested in (but perhaps less familiar with) the classics, philosophy and the history of ideas, employing a broader approach to knowledge beyond the curriculum and across disciplines. Many extra-curricular activities are either skills/employability based or aimed at exam crammers, whereas U1D aims to celebrate knowledge for its own sake, and whet attendees’ appetite to read more widely than their chosen academic course requires.

The first U1D is titled Man is the Measure of All Things, with a historic timeline from the Renaissance through to the Enlightenment and Age of Revolution.

The aim of the day is to give pupils pre-university:

· a taste of a liberal arts approach to higher education and knowledge;
· undergraduate-level themed lectures by academics;
· an introduction to the history of ideas
AND:
· to encourage abstract, philosophical thinking in young people;
· to encourage a spirit of public intellectual life and enquiry.

This specifically designed full-day event, 9am – 9pm, packed full of ideas presented through a variety of teaching formats, will expose attendees to:

· three in-depth lectures followed by tutored small-group seminars to provide an opportunity to thoroughly examine and deepen understanding of each topic

· six mini lectures that relate to a time period on specific artefacts / publications / historical figures associated with visual art, philosophy, science and literature

· a panel discussion with well-known public commentators on a contentious contemporary issue relating to the theme of the day followed by a Q&A session

· a pre-event bespoke Topic Guide with recommended readings

CO-CONVENORS

Professor Alan Hudson, director of leadership and public policy programmes, University of Oxford; professor at China Executive Leadership Academy Pudong
Claire Fox, director, Institute of Ideas; panelist, BBC Radio 4’s Moral Maze

PROGRAMME

9.00am - 9.30am
Registration & Welcome address: Professor Alan Hudson, co-convenor, University in One Day

9.30am – 10.30am
OPENING LECTURE: THE IDEA OF PROGRESS, CHANGE AND HISTORY
(40-minute lecture; 20 minutes Q&A)           
Professor Frank Furedi, Associate, Centre for Parenting Culture Studies, University of Kent, Canterbury; author, Wasted, Politics of Fear, On Tolerance and Authority: a sociological history with Claire Fox.

The idea of progress is a recent one. For most of human history, there was no conviction or hope that the human situation could or would improve. For less than 500 years, progress was regarded as both possible and necessary, but in our own times we are more likely to encounter a more traditional view that progress is not only undesirable but positively dangerous. This opening session explores the history of progress and takes issue with its contemporary detractors.

10.30am – 11am
LECTURE 2: THE RENAISSANCE: MAN IS THE MEASURE OF ALL THINGS?
(30-minute lecture)
Professor Alan Hudson with Alka Sehgal Cuthbert, English teacher; PhD researcher, education, University of Cambridge.

Nineteenth century historians first used the term Renaissance, or ‘rebirth’, to describe the intense intellectual and cultural flowering that took place in Italy, and especially Florence, from the fourteenth to the sixteenth century. More recently, historical and cultural work has emphasised the continuity of this period with medieval European civilization. This session will examine the relative claims for change and continuity with special attention to those who lived through this exciting period.

11.15am – 12noon
3 x tutored seminars relating to Lecture 2
Led by Dr Joanna Williams, senior lecturer in higher education, director, Centre for the Study of Higher Education, University of Kent; author, Consuming Higher Education: why learning can’t be bought and Richard Swan, writer and teacher; former vice-principal, Harvey Grammar School, Folkestone;
Alka Sehgal Cuthbert and Jacob Reynolds, postgraduate student, University of Oxford; Debating Matters alumnus;
Dr Vanessa Pupavac and Dr Mark Taylor, deputy head of school, Addey and Stanhope comprehensive school; London convenor, IoI Education Forum.


12noon – 12.30pm
Refreshments break

12.30pm – 1.15pm
3 x 15 minute shorts (mini interactive lectures relating to the Renaissance, chaired by Steve Murphy, head of philosophy, Esher College.)
a) PHILOSOPHY: ORATION ON THE DIGNITY OF MAN, 1486, PICO DELLA MIRANDOLA
Sebastian Morello, lecturer and trainer at the Centre for Catholic Formation in London.  He is also a faculty member of the Roman Forum, as well as of the Benedictus Summer School programme.

This work of Giovanni Pico della Mirandola (1463-1494) is often called the Manifesto of the Renaissance. Although Pico poses his central theses in a mystical, or Neoplatonic, mode, it is the humanist voice which is crucial: with its emphasis on the dignity of the liberal arts, the potential of human achievement, and the importance of the human quest for knowledge. As Pico writes:
‘Let some holy ambition invade our souls, so that, dissatisfied with mediocrity, we shall eagerly desire the highest things and shall toil with all our strength to obtain them, since we may if we wish.’

b) ARTS: BRUNELLESCHI’S DOME
Vicky Richardson, director of architecture, design and fashion, British Council; commissioner, British Pavilion at Venice Architecture Biennale.

The dome of Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiori (‘Il Duomo’) is one of the most beautiful and inspiring achievements of the Renaissance. The story of its construction and its architect and engineer, Filippo Brunelleschi (1377-1446), describes not only the audacious sense of self which characterised Renaissance man but also the civic pride and spirit of the Florentine Republic. It is both an aesthetic delight and a celebration of public, urban space.

c) LITERATURE: THE TYNDALE BIBLE
Dr Vanessa Pupavac, senior lecturer, School of Politics and International Relations, University of Nottingham; author, Language Rights: from free speech to linguistic governance.

In October 1536, when William Tyndale (c.1490-1536) was executed in the Duchy of Brabant, he had completed the translation of the New Testament and part of the Old Testament from early Hebrew and Greek sources into English. His text not only accounts for 70 per cent of the 1611 King James Bible (the Authorized Version) but its strong, muscular vernacular English brought the interpretation of the word of God, and therefore individual conscience, to a vast new audience, facilitated by the relatively new technology of the printing press. As such it is founding document of the English language, the English church, and even English (and later British) political institutions.

1.15pm – 2.15pm
Lunch break (packed lunch provided or nearby cafes)

2.15pm – 2.45pm
LECTURE 3: WHAT IS ENLIGHTENMENT?
Angus Kennedy, convenor, The Academy; author, Being Cultured: in defence of discrimination, with Dr Joanna Williams.

On 1 November, All Saint’s Day 1755, a devastating earthquake, followed by a tsunami and subsequent fires, almost totally destroyed the city of Lisbon. The debate over what this could mean and what could be done about it engaged the most important thinkers of the time. Through their work and commentary this session will trace the key ideas of the Enlightenment, and depicts the range of understandings of both the natural and social worlds in the middle of the eighteenth century.

2.45pm – 3.30pm
3 x tutored seminars relating to Lecture 3
Led by Dr Joanna Williams and Richard Swan;
Dr Vanessa Pupavac and Jacob Reynolds;
Dr Tiffany Jenkins,  sociologist and cultural commentator; culture section co-editor,  Sociology Compass; co-convener of the British Sociological Association study group, and Steve Murphy, head of philosophy, Esher College.

3.45pm – 4.30pm 3 x 15 minute shorts (mini interactive lectures relating to the Enlightenment, chaired by Dr Tiffany Jenkins.)

a) SCIENCE: GALILEO AND THE SCIENTIFIC REVOLUTION
Simon Wilde, associate director, external communications, National Institute for Health and Care Excellence.

Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) is famous for dropping objects from the tower in Pisa and being forced to recant his heliocentric views before the Inquisition. The significance of these tales is profound. They illustrate why Galileo is considered the father of modern science: observation and experiment. The quality of both in Galileo’s work provided the reliable foundation on which to confirm mathematical laws using inductive reasoning. The ground was laid for advances in both theoretical physics and applied technology.

b) PHILOSOPHY: ANSWERING THE QUESTION: WHAT IS ENLIGHTENMENT?
Steve Murphy, head of philosophy, Esher College.

It is, perhaps, not an exaggeration to suggest that Immanuel Kant’s (1724-1804) short essay of this title, published in December 1784, is the most succinct and powerful statement of the aspiration and outlook of enlightenment thinking. In his opening sentence, Kant answers his own question: ‘Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-incurred immaturity.’ He resolves that the motto of the Enlightenment should therefore be ‘Sapere aude’ – Dare to be wise!

c) ARTS: GOYA: FROM THE SLEEP OF REASON TO THE DISASTERS OF WAR
Dr Clare Hornsby, director and founding trustee, Benedictus Liberal Arts College; art and cultural historian.

The remarkable visual imagination of the Spanish artist Francisco Goya (1746-1821) – living in one of the most backward parts of Western Europe during a period of great social, economic and political upheaval - provides a startling insight into the psychological and practical difficulties of a turbulent time. The world seemed to many to be falling apart, and the old order reacted brutally, warning against the hubris of human reason. Goya sought to reconcile reason and the imagination in order to grapple with spiritual torment and the horrors of war.

4.30pm – 6.00pm
LECTURE 4: TOWARDS THE AGE OF REVOLUTION
Dolan Cummings, associate fellow, Institute of Ideas; editor, Debating Humanism; co-founder, Manifesto Club
(30-minute lecture followed by 45 minutes Q & A on the whole day with a range of earlier speakers)

A time traveller moving century by century from 1550, to 1650, to 1750, would find it hard to distinguish much change in the economic, social, and political life of humanity even in the most developed areas of the world. But 100 years later, at least in North America and Western Europe, huge changes had happened. An Agricultural and then an Industrial Revolution transformed and set in motion further rapid changes in human productivity. Political revolution, first in the newly born United States and then in France, created a new language of politics and new possibilities for the majority of humankind. These were, according to some, both the best of times and the worst of times – but, above all, extraordinary times. Now the use of the word revolutionary is as likely to be used for a new generation of smartphones as for social upheaval. This session seeks to contrast the expectations at the end of the eighteenth century with the sensibility of our own time.

6.00pm – 7.00pm

College Supper in Goodenough College Great Hall

7.00pm – 8.30pm
Battle of Ideas panel discussion:
FROM ENLIGHTENMENT TOLERATION TO TWENTY-FIRST-CENTURY OFFENCE: RELIGION AND SOCIETY THEN AND NOW

Speakers include: 
Andrew Copson, chief executive, British Humanist Association
John Fitzpatrick, professor of law and director, Kent Law Clinic, University of Kent, Canterbury.
Neil McKain, Executive member, National Association of Teachers of Religious Education; as of September 2015, Head of RS at Pipers Corner School, High Wycombe; educational adviser for TrueTube
Ruth Gledhill, senior UK religious journalist; formerly religious correspondent for The Times (for 27 years); contributing editor, Christian Today
Chair: Dr Shirley Dent, Associate Fellow of the Institute of Ideas; co-author, Radical Blake; communications specialist (currently working with the British Veterinary Association media team).

Introduction

One of the significant intellectual shifts heralded by the Enlightenment concerned attitudes to tolerance and religion.

Until the seventeenth century, being intolerant of other religions was considered a virtue. But in 1640, parliament abolished the Court of the King Star Chamber, which had previously silenced the voices of political opponents and religious dissenters, allowing the likes of poet and polemicist John Milton to argue openly for the ‘spiritual liberty’ to follow one’s conscience. In his 1659 essay, A Treatise of Civil Power in Ecclesiastical Causes, he wrote that ‘no man ought to be punished or molested by any outward force on earth whatsoever’ because of their ‘belief or practice in religion according to [...] conscientious persuasion’.

Liberal philosopher John Locke explicitly explored tolerance in his 1689 essay, A Letter Concerning Toleration, which was about ‘settl[ing] the bounds that lie between… the business of government and that of religion’. He argued that the authorities had no business interfering in the affairs of men’s minds or hearts; if people were to be truly moral beings, it was unacceptable that people should ‘quit the light of their own reason, and oppose the dictates of their own consciences, and blindly resign themselves up to the will of their governors’. So the modern ideal of tolerance, even for those who hold views with which we strongly disagree, emerged from this principled philosophical opposition to the right of governments to determine what private religious groups and individuals could believe and think.

Yet now, more than three centuries later, policing the realm of the conscience is back in fashion. For example, one reaction to the rise of Islamic extremism has been a hardening of the public mood against the ‘special pleading’ of faith groups, whether relating to Halal meat or the injunctions that cartoonists should not depict the Prophet Muhammad. Meanwhile, contemporary equality legislation has led to demands to circumscribe religious groups’ rights, such as those who have been prosecuted for discriminatory actions relating to their views on homosexuality. Conversely, many religious people cite theological hurt to demand censorship. And of course, there are constant contemporary rows about the validity of faith schools.

Yet neither is the debate solely confined to state regulation today. Increasingly, university campuses pride themselves on a ‘zero tolerance’ approach to speech and beliefs deemed harmful to students, ranging from religious societies holding anti-abortion events or imposing sex segregation at their own meetings through to banning speakers with controversial views on issues around race, sexuality, transgenderism and even climate change.

Are the Enlightenment concepts of freedom of conscience and tolerance no longer relevant to the modern world? Is religion a threat to secular notions of free speech? Are some views simply beyond the limits of tolerance, or are we at risk of creating a new set of modern heresies?

8.30pm – 9pm
Closing comments by Professor Alan Hudson; networking/farewells