Thursday, March 23, 2017


My New School co-historian J and I gave a talk at Staff Development Day last year called "What Does it Mean to be a Progressive University?" We did the usual historian's thing - finding the past unfamiliar, at once disconcerting and inspiring, allowing distance, humility and a new vantage on the present - and it was a great hit. Staff, we concluded, have a greater investment in the school than students, passing through, or faculty, with communities and loyalties beyond the particular institution. We've never had as interested an audience! (And the video of the talk circulated well beyond the day.)

Today was Staff Development Day 2017, and they invited us back, this time to share the stage with the university's dynamic Vice President for Social Justice, the theme "Social Justice at The New School, Then and Now." Our impulse was to do for "social justice" what we'd done for "progressive" - it didn't mean then what it means now - but isn't "social justice" a term of our new century? J checked the digitized course catalogs and found the story was more complicated. "The Idea of Social Justice" shows up as a topic in a course already in Fall 1925! By 1936 a course was touching on "changing concepts of social justice" - but not before social justice cropped up in a lecture on Götterdämmerung!

Always so much (more) to learn!

For instance about Wagner teacher Adele T. Katz, an intriguing figure. Born in California and studying in her forties at Mannes, the conservatory now part of New School; in 1935 she published the first English language article on Schenkerian analysis, the theoretical base of Mannes' pedagogy. She wrote the music and staged the plays for the Schools Settlement Association for several years. She taught at New School but more at our shadow, the Rand School of Social Science. Yet it was at TNS she taught about theories of social reform in Wagner in Spring 1934 - affected, perhaps, by the atmosphere of the place:
David Carson Berry, "The Role of Adele T. Katz in the Early Expansion of the
New York 'Schenker School,'" Current Musicology 74 (Fall 2002): 103-151, 116

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