Faculty Profile: Matthew Schertz

Visiting Professor in Educational Studies Matthew Schertz has brought his personal philosophy of intellectual engagement to the classroom at Colgate for the last three years.

For his undergraduate work, Schertz attended Saint John’s College, a school that has campuses in Santa Fe, NM and Annapolis, MD. Schertz found the two campuses to be a positive atmosphere rather than a hindrance.

“One of the neat things about the school was you got to go back and forth between the two campuses,” he said. “I started off at Santa Fe, went to Annapolis, and then came back.”

The school is unique in that it offers a strict liberal arts program, which requires a course of study based on the great books of Western civilization. As such, there is no choice of classes or majors and students in each grade level read the same books at basically the same time.

“I got a firm liberal arts background from the experience,” Schertz said. “I really enjoyed it because it was a complete discussion-based education. The kind of person who goes there likes to talk about learning and looks at education as a means of spiritual and intellectual fulfillment.”

After receiving his Bachelor of Arts, he took time off from his studies and worked as a counselor in a forensic unit dealing with extremely disturbed adolescents. This path led him to pursue research in empathy and moral development.

“One of my interests was looking at philosophical dialogues as a means of non-authoritarian moral education,” Schertz said.

For his graduate research, Schertz attended Montclair State University, which has the only doctoral program in Philosophy for Children in the nation. The program teaches the means for engaging students in philosophical questions and prepares teachers to do so in the classroom.

During graduate school, Schertz worked with elementary and high school students to put his teaching philosophy into practice.

“The idea is to change the dynamic of the student-teacher relationship,” he said. “You have students asking questions and engaging in philosophical dialogue. Kids have a natural propensity to understand the world around them, so why don’t we create an educational environment that allows them to do that?”

While at Montclair, he also taught in the philosophy program at Rutgers University and as a ninth grade ethics instructor at Montclair State Precollegiate Teaching Academy. He graduated with an Ed. D. in Pedagogy with a specialization in Philosophy for Children.

After graduating, Schertz came to work at Colgate, which piqued his interest due to its liberal arts program, which was similar to his undergraduate and graduate experiences.

“The thing that attracted me and has sustained my interest in Colgate has been the strength of the institution as a liberal arts school, and the quality of the student body and my fellow professors,” he said. “I was struck by the whole community here when I visited. I immediately saw that this was going to be a great place to teach, and it has been.”

Schertz has found that his liberal arts education has been influential on him not only as a person but as a teacher in general. Although there were some differences regarding the philosophies of the schools in their style of teaching, what remained consistent was the “student centered pedagogy and curricula structure. This affected me greatly in that I believe in it strongly and try to pursue it in my own teaching and research.”

Schertz likes to run a classroom where student participation is the most important feature.

“I look at myself as a student and the book as the teacher,” he said. “I try to provide a median by which students can engage the text, myself and other students with questions to try to reach a deeper understanding of the text. You want to get students hooked on the text through participating.”

It is through this process that Schertz finds that students bring the discussion to greater heights.

“The good thing about running a class that way is you never know when you’ll have those ‘Eureka’ moments,” he said. “It’s the idea of students building on each other’s statements and then taking the intellectual endeavor to the next level. Of course it doesn’t happen every day, but when it does happen it’s really worth it.”

Schertz believes in education as a means of enrichment for the mind and the soul.

“I think I’m a passionate advocate for education for its own sake,” he said. “I look at education as something for me right now that could shift my life and make it better.”

Schertz has taught in the CORE program for several years, and he has found that he is able to express this philosophy through the teaching of “The Challenge of Modernity.”

“The CORE is essentially who I am,” he said. “My own consciousness was developed by reading those books. I look at it as a spiritual endeavor because these ideas can make us greater than that which we are.”

As such, Schertz is a strong proponent of the continuation of the CORE program at Colgate.

“I’d like to make sure that something like the CORE program is kept as it is [or] made even larger,” he said. “Reading and analyzing these texts is fundamentally important.”

However, as a visiting professor, Schertz realizes that his time at Colgate is coming to an end.

“I’ve been here for three years now and I’ve really, really enjoyed it,” he said. “The students have been great, and I really enjoyed my colleagues. We have some good programs at the University that has made this an enriching experience and I will miss that greatly.”