“A Courageous Space” for Discussion in Penn’s SNF Paideia Program

NEW YORK – A new course offered at the University of Pennsylvania as part of the SNF Paideia Program is opening a space for conversations that might seem unimaginable elsewhere in 2020.

Can We Talk? Courageous Civility for Troubled Times is the focus of a recent feature in Penn Today

Lia Howard is one of the co-teachers of the course. “We hoped they would learn to trust each other and create a courageous space where they could be vulnerable and yet speak authentically,” she says in the feature. “That is a hard balance. The students far exceeded our expectations.”

Some of SNF Paideia’s first offerings have been atypical courses that speak to societal needs of the moment. In addition to Can We Talk, courses include Rhetoric and the Community, The Chinese Body and Spatial Consumption in Chinatown, and Grit Lab: Fostering Passion and Perseverance in Ourselves and Others, the last of which was covered in a Fast Company article in February.

Can We Talk? events, organized in conjunction with the course by its instructors, have brought together students from Penn and other nearby colleges and universities in conversations about potentially thorny political issues.

In March 2019, SNF announced a $6 million grant to the University of Pennsylvania to imagine a new paradigm for its project of educating students as whole people and citizens. The result, drawing inspiration from ancient Greece and the concept of “paideia,” which indicated the rearing and education of the ideal citizen, is the SNF Paideia Program.


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