If you want to change the world, you first need to learn about it. 

Our seminar discussions are fueled by the close reading of political theory, scientific research, literature, and ethical and environmental thought — Tidelines students are called to encounter the world beyond the limitations of their experience, and challenged to live their answers to the questions they find there.

We see the liberal arts as the general education that a person needs in order to become a citizen, steward, and leader. Education at Tidelines, while rich in opportunities for personal contemplation, is not for your benefit alone— we seek students who are called to be of service to humanity and who have the courage to come to grips with the crises of our time.

To that end, our curriculum is organized around four crises:

  • Governance & Democracy – How do we balance conflicting goods? How do we allocate scarce resources? How do we arrive at a shared understanding of a problem and imagine and implement workable solutions? What are democratic norms and what has contributed to their recent erosion? The governance & democracy unit addresses these and other fundamental questions of democratic governance, both through political theory and practical case studies.
  • Justice & Equality – In this unit, participants will explore a major contemporary issue pertaining to justice and equality. A few examples include income inequality, climate justice, systemic racism, and Alaska Native politics. Regardless of the particular issue, this course takes an intersectional approach, exploring the ways in which matters of justice interact with one another.
  • Climate & Environment – With its tidewater glaciers, old growth forests, and largely intact ecosystems, southeast Alaska provides an ideal setting for study of the natural world. Employing both western and Indigenous approaches, this unit uses the Alaskan landscape as entry point for thinking about human relationships with the land.
  • Meaning & Purpose – Splashy headlines in the press have diagnosed our culture as suffering a “crisis of meaning.” From the personal to the global, students in this course wrestle with the big questions of epistemology. How do we find meaning in our own lives, and how do we act on it? In an era of “alternative facts,” how do we find shared understanding and purpose across boundaries of difference?
  • All students also take a fifth, place-based course on the Nature & Culture of Southeast Alaska

There is a great temptation for the intellect to specialize— but we must resist this. The aforementioned crises are deeply entangled with one another; they cannot be understood separately. And responses to these crises take the form of lives, which must be good lives if they are to be sustained; all convictions need to be nourished as well as forged. Our students cultivate habits of reading, writing, discussion, and personal reflection that sustain them long after they depart from Tidelines.

Interlocking crises demand a holistic education.


Governance & Democracy

“Governing the Self & Others”
Joel Schlosser, Bryn Mawr College

This seminar seeks to reflect deeply about the meanings of self-governance, why one might desire it, and how political institutions, laws, and culture might embody it. The course will grapple with both the ur-text of collective governance – Rousseau’s On the Social Contract – as well as Michel Foucault’s famous critique of what he called “governmentality.” These two readings will lay the groundwork for considering institutional power arrangements that might serve collective flourishing as well as the oppressive or constraining dimensions of these institutions’ actual practices. Stepping beyond the discourse of the state, in the second half of the course we will consider two alternatives: Indigenous (and Tlingit more specifically) practices of governance that refuse the modern individual and colonial subject; and grassroots organizing forms of governance. Our overarching objective will be to develop and implement critical vocabulary for understanding and implementing what self-governance might mean, what conditions it requires, and what “best practices” community members and citizens committed to it might enlist to realize its potential for self-development and collective flourishing.

Justice & Equality

“Education, Inequality, & Social Change”
Laura Marcus, Tidelines Institute

Is education a form of social control? Or is it the vehicle by which society is reimagined and renewed? Does it reify or undermine existing power structures? Is its purpose self-actualization or the creation of a more just world? And how is our educational work at Tidelines Institute implicated in these questions? During this course, we will examine major threads of contemporary justice work – race, colonialism, and meritocracy, among others – through the lens of education. In these explorations we will draw on a diversity of texts from Platonic dialogue to Tlingit oral narrative, historical scholarship to op-ed. Beginning with the big questions of educational purpose and practice, this course invites students to apply those questions to their current and future educational institutions. Through Tidelines’ self-governance practice, students participate actively in the recruitment and admission of new students, the creation of curricula and the hiring of faculty. As we co-create an educational community here in Lingít Aaní (Southeast Alaska), this course provides an intellectual space for students to grapple with guiding questions of justice and equity that bear directly on the decisions we make as an organization.

Climate & Environment

“The Climate Crisis: From Knowledge to Action”
Zachary Brown, Tidelines Institute

Climate change is the defining challenge of our time. This all-encompassing crisis touches every aspect of our lives: where we live, how we work, the food we eat, water we drink, and air we breathe. It also touches (and exacerbates) all other social justice issues: systemic racism, gross inequality, poverty, hunger, housing, finance, transportation, public health. This four-week course will introduce students to the fundamentals of climate science, climate justice, and climate action.

Meaning & Purpose

“Stories of Place on a Planet in Peril”
Kathleen Moore, Oregon State University (emerita) & Hank Lentfer, Tidelines Institute

As the capstone course in the Tideline’s semester, we’ll integrate on-the-ground experiences with lessons and insights from previous courses. The over-arching objective of this course is to probe big questions (What is the place of humans in the world? What is a good life?) by immersing ourselves in the experiences and gifts of the land. Drawing on western and indigenous traditions, we’ll read literature exploring the ways place has influenced the sense of self and responsibility. Readings will be complemented by out-of-class experiential learning that enlivens these big questions. What does harvesting home-grown carrots tell us about how to respond to the climate crisis? How does butchering a deer influence our connection to the world and sense of self? How might a few weeks unplugged from the world wide web better connect us to the world’s wide web?