Rory Varrato is currently pursuing a PhD in Philosophy and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. Prior to his arrival in New York City, Rory worked as a teacher at Scottsdale Preparatory Academy, a Great Books-based liberal arts school in Scottsdale, AZ. Before that, Rory earned a B.A. in American History and an M.A. in Political Theory, both from Arizona State University.
Rory’s attraction to Freedom and Citizenship flows from his belief that the program offers to its students a radically democratic and, therefore, properly subversive form of education. Undergoing such an education means that — through reading, writing about, and discussing with one another the texts of the program — Freedom and Citizenship students embark on what Alfred North Whitehead called an adventure of ideas. This adventure, to paraphrase Milan Kundera, teaches students to comprehend the world as a question. And questions, as Neil Postman has told us, are the principal intellectual instruments available to human beings. An important challenge for students, then, is to practice using these instruments by participating in deliberative dialogue in the classroom. Through actualizing this ideal — what John Dewey called democracy as a way of living — students empower themselves to become authentically autonomous persons. Indeed, this process, according to Paulo Freire, is “the practice of freedom,” or “the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.” Precisely that kind of human liberation is what Rory is proud to facilitate through his work as the graduate coordinator for Freedom and Citizenship.