Double Serendipity: Danielle Allen and the Institute for Advanced Study’s Sympoium on Technology and Education

One thing that Dan Burk, Mike Madison, Dan Solove, and a few others told me as I started my academic career was that it was important to read, read, read; attend conferences; and engage with other professors about their work. With that base one slowly but surely develops better material and grows a network of colleagues who will be able to let you know where you work is strong and where it needs improvement. I took that idea to mean go ahead and contact folks when you have something to say.

Just before I heard that I was going to be at Princeton, I contacted an old friend, Danielle Allen because some of her work on democracy and rhetoric caught my attention. Danielle and I had attended K-8 grades together but lost touch after that. It turns out that she just had seen my name in the acknowledgment section of one of Dan Solove’s books and wondered whether that was the same person she knew. It was. Danielle is at the Institute for Advanced Studies here in Princeton. We caught up over lunch, had a great time, and I learned about her work at IAS. One of her projects is the The Dewey Seminar: Education, Schools and the State, which she co-organized with Rob Reich. Here is the scope of the project:

Every society and political regime develops educational institutions and practices that substantially shape its evolution, revolutions, and stabilization over time. The Dewey Seminar will explore the interrelationships among education, justice, schools, and the state. Because of the centrality of education to the continuity of sociopolitical orders, its analysis embraces virtually all the social sciences. A significant number of the School’s Members this year will pursue work related directly to this theme-from exploring how diverse educational practices are linked to specific political orders to studying contemporary pressures on education and its capacity to support democratic political systems.

In 1916 the philosopher John Dewey published Democracy and Education: an introduction to the philosophy of education. He sought an account of education that could enable human flourishing both individually and collectively for democratic citizens. Our seminar takes its inspiration from his aspirations.

Anyone interested in these topics should go to the Seminar’s home page and check the participant list.

The seminar has various components one of which is a symposium series with practitioners. At lunch, Danielle mentioned that the January symposium is on Technology and Education. The people involved and their projects to use technology to generate real change in education are ambitious and inspiring. I will be attending and thinking about how these ideas connect to IP as a barrier to innovation, the Google Book deal, and where a combination of law and technology might be able to break through current problems in technology and education. In short, I have caught up with an old friend, and I get to hear leaders in their fields talk about the promises and challenges of technology and education. It is a great start to the new year, and I am grateful to those who were part of my enjoying a little double serendipity.