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The Prospect of an Ideal Liberal Arts College Curriculum by Shane J. Ralston – BMCS
"Reconstructing the [John] Dewey - [Robert Maynard] Hutchins Debate"

...

"What happened at Black Mountain College was for the most part what Rorty conjectured would happen if students came to college prepared and faculty could fully exercise their academic freedom. “Faculty [at Black Mountain] were to select their own methods of instruction,” Katherine Reynolds (1988:124) explains, “which might include ‘recitations, lectures, tutorials, and seminars.’” So, pluralism in curriculum design is, and should be, an obstinate feature of any flourishing academic community. One of the first steps in achieving more collaboration between great books proponents and their critics in such a pluralist community, then, is for both sides to admit that there is no fixed ideal that should dictate the content of the ideal liberal arts curriculum. Indeed, we could go one step further and claim that there is no ideal liberal arts curriculum, if what we mean by ‘ideal’ is an ultimate destination, telos or final end. Second, the distinction between subject matter and method should not be treated functionally, not dualistically. To treat it dualistically, and to choose content over method, as Hutchins did, risks alienating those faculty members, such as Rice, who do not rigidly adhere to course syllabi, but make the classroom a space for free-ranging and open-ended discussion and dialogue. Dewey (1966:133) resisted what he called in his 1899 Lectures in the Philosophy of Education a “more or less hard and fast separation” between subject matter and method, seeing them instead as inextricably connected in any intelligently designed curriculum. In this way, Dewey’s twin emphasis on educational subject matter and method represents a bridge between those, such as Hutchins and Adler, who saw content as the preeminent concern of curriculum development, and those, such as Rice, who focused largely on method. Third, and lastly, we should heed Dewey, Rice and Rorty’s plea for tolerant pluralism in the design of college curricula, allowing faculty the freedom to develop teaching methods and content as they see fit. Having had two colleagues at different institutions who were great books proponents (indeed, both were former students of St. John’s College), I know from personal experience that such collaboration is possible, though it demands humility, diplomacy and hard work if both parties hope to craft and realize a shared vision."
blackmountaincollege  bmc  shaneralston  liberalarts  curriculum  highered  highereducation  education  johndewey  johnandrewrice  rollinscollege  jimgarrison  philosophy  pedagogy  democracy  katherinereynolds  greatbooks  robertmaynardhutchins 
7 days ago by robertogreco
Thoreau College - Liberal Arts for the Whole Human Being
[via: https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2015/12/11/outer-coast-college-seeks-replicate-deep-springs-success ]

"The Mission of Thoreau College is to provide transformative post-secondary liberal arts education for the whole human being based on the insights of Rudolf Steiner and anthroposophy. Thoreau College seeks to cultivate an environment of experiences and relationships in which motivated students can explore the deeper nature of the world and of themselves and prepare to embark upon lives of courageous service to the ongoing development of humanity."



"STUDENTS
Thoreau College is envisioned as a small, intensive residential liberal arts college with an initial size of about 6 or 7 students per class, or 25-30 students over all four years of the program. We expect that the main body of students will be drawn from young people in the decade of life between 18 and 28, although we are open to older individuals who are ready and able to make the personal commitment envisioned here. Immersive general education based on the ideas of Rudolf Steiner for students older than 18 is largely lacking in the world and Thoreau College is eager to research and develop a model for anthroposophically-based education for students from 18 to 21 and during the 4th seven-year period from 21-28. This is a period of life characterized by maturing adult powers of rational thinking, a heightened sense of idealism and interest in the problems of the world, the formation of key life-long relationships, and a dawning awareness of vocation and personal purpose. People between 18 and 28 have been key instigators and activists in the major political, social, artistic, and philosophical revolutions of history. Thoreau College seeks to connect the energy, courage, and idealism of this period of life with the powerful techniques and skills for self-discipline, self-knowing, and consciousness-raising found in anthroposophy to nurture a group of heroic individuals ready to stand in the world with confidence and undertake the difficult tasks required by this critical moment in the evolution of humanity.

SETTING
Rooted in the unique natural and cultural landscape of the Driftless Region of southwestern Wisconsin while extending its vision and engagement throughout the world, Thoreau College strives to create a tightly-knit community of seekers engaged in intensive self-development across spiritual, intellectual, emotional, practical, and interpersonal dimensions. This community is intended to be residential, with students and at least some faculty living, working, studying, and having meals with one another. In this way, Thoreau College seeks to cultivate a strong daily, weekly, and annual rhythm of life, positive habits for healthy personal development, and a context for supportive and enriching human relationships. To further these goals, students and faculty commit to abstain from drugs, alcohol, and unhealthy consumption of media and electronic entertainment while in residence at the college. Thoreau College seeks to be an active part of the cultural and social life of our local community, including mutually beneficial partnerships with other local organizations.

ORGANIZATION
In its organizational structure and economic life, Thoreau College seeks to realize Rudolf Steiner’s vision of the Threefold Social Order to the greatest degree possible, while recognizing that it will need to function in the context of a society organized according to very different principles.

In the cultural/spiritual sphere, Thoreau College affirms the necessity of freedom of thought and expression in the arts and in cultural and spiritual matters. This includes ideas and forms of expression that might be stigmatized or silenced in the wider society or in other academic contexts. At its heart, Thoreau College is dedicated to the spiritual freedom of the human being, as well as to the cultivation of this freedom through spiritual knowledge. For this reason, anthroposophy and the ideas of Rudolf Steiner form an essential element in the mission and purpose of Thoreau College and these will continue to hold a place of central importance and respect in the life of the college. Thoreau College faculty members should combine a strong understanding of and commitment to the mission of the college with a serious personal engagement with anthroposophy and the ideas of Rudolf Steiner and a strong professional grounding in their field of teaching, based on education, life experience, or both.

In the political/rights sphere, all Thoreau College students, faculty, staff, and senior fellows will have a formal decision-making role in the operations of the college and the organization will maintain a high degree of transparency in all policy and fiscal matters. Participation in college governance will form an integral part of the curriculum for all students. In its relations with government and other outside organizations, Thoreau College will seek incorporation as a non-profit organization, as well as recognition from the US federal government that would allow international students to attend using student visas.

In the economic sphere Thoreau College seeks to build an institution of higher education that liberates its students to pursue their important life-works free from the burden of educational debt, while at the same time ensuring financial stability and security for faculty, staff, and senior fellows and funding the construction and maintenance of facilities with excellent aesthetic, environmental, and functional qualities. Education for all motivated and qualified students who have been accepted as members of the Thoreau College student body is guaranteed regardless of personal financial means, with the understanding that all members of the college community have a personal responsibility for the financial well-being of the college as a whole, as well as a karmic duty to put the gift of education they have received at Thoreau College to good use in their work and life thereafter.
thoreaucollege  srg  wisconsin  colleges  universities  greatbooks  stjohn'scollege  shimercollege 
april 2016 by robertogreco
[Essay] | The Neoliberal Arts, by William Deresiewicz | Harper's Magazine
"I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.

leadership
service
integrity
creativity

Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.

A spatial structure, the sentence also suggests a temporal sequence. Thinking clearly, it wants us to recognize, leads to thinking independently. Thinking independently leads to living confidently. Living confidently leads to living courageously. Living courageously leads to living hopefully. And the entire chain begins with a college that recognizes it has an obligation to its students, an obligation to develop their abilities to think and live.

Finally, the sentence is attributed to an individual. It expresses her convictions and ideals. It announces that she is prepared to hold herself accountable for certain responsibilities.

The second text is not a sentence. It is four words floating in space, unconnected to one another or to any other concept. Four words — four slogans, really — whose meaning and function are left undefined, open to whatever interpretation the reader cares to project on them.

Four words, three of which — “leadership,” “service,” and “creativity” — are the loudest buzzwords in contemporary higher education. (“Integrity” is presumably intended as a synonym for the more familiar “character,” which for colleges at this point means nothing more than not cheating.) The text is not the statement of an individual; it is the emanation of a bureaucracy. In this case, a literally anonymous bureaucracy: no one could tell me when this version of the institution’s mission statement was formulated, or by whom. No one could even tell me who had decided to hang those banners all over campus. The sentence from the founder has also long been mounted on the college walls. The other words had just appeared, as if enunciated by the zeitgeist.

But the most important thing to note about the second text is what it doesn’t talk about: thinking or learning. In what it both does and doesn’t say, it therefore constitutes an apt reflection of the current state of higher education. College is seldom about thinking or learning anymore. Everyone is running around trying to figure out what it is about. So far, they have come up with buzzwords, mainly those three.

This is education in the age of neoliberalism. Call it Reaganism or Thatcherism, economism or market fundamentalism, neoliberalism is an ideology that reduces all values to money values. The worth of a thing is the price of the thing. The worth of a person is the wealth of the person. Neoliberalism tells you that you are valuable exclusively in terms of your activity in the marketplace — in Wordsworth’s phrase, your getting and spending.

The purpose of education in a neoliberal age is to produce producers. I published a book last year that said that, by and large, elite American universities no longer provide their students with a real education, one that addresses them as complete human beings rather than as future specialists — that enables them, as I put it, to build a self or (following Keats) to become a soul. Of all the responses the book aroused, the most dismaying was this: that so many individuals associated with those institutions said not, “Of course we provide our students with a real education,” but rather, “What is this ‘real education’ nonsense, anyway?”"



"So what’s so bad about leadership, service, and creativity? What’s bad about them is that, as they’re understood on campus and beyond, they are all encased in neoliberal assumptions. Neoliberalism, which dovetails perfectly with meritocracy, has generated a caste system: “winners and losers,” “makers and takers,” “the best and the brightest,” the whole gospel of Ayn Rand and her Übermenschen. That’s what “leadership” is finally about. There are leaders, and then there is everyone else: the led, presumably — the followers, the little people. Leaders get things done; leaders take command. When colleges promise to make their students leaders, they’re telling them they’re going to be in charge.

“Service” is what the winners engage in when they find themselves in a benevolent mood. Call it Clintonism, by analogy with Reaganism. Bill Clinton not only ratified the neoliberal consensus as president, he has extended its logic as a former president. Reaganism means the affluent have all the money, as well as all the power. Clintonism means they use their money and power, or a bit of it, to help the less fortunate — because the less fortunate (i.e., the losers) can’t help themselves. Hence the Clinton Foundation, hence every philanthropic or altruistic endeavor on the part of highly privileged, highly credentialed, highly resourced elites, including all those nonprofits or socially conscious for-profits that college students start or dream of starting.

“Creativity,” meanwhile, is basically a business concept, aligned with the other clichés that have come to us from the management schools by way of Silicon Valley: “disruption,” “innovation,” “transformation.” “Creativity” is not about becoming an artist. No one wants you to become an artist. It’s about devising “innovative” products, services, and techniques — “solutions,” which imply that you already know the problem. “Creativity” means design thinking, in the terms articulated by the writer Amy Whitaker, not art thinking: getting from A to a predetermined B, not engaging in an open-ended exploratory process in the course of which you discover the B.

Leadership, service, and creativity do not seek fundamental change (remember, fundamental change is out in neoliberalism); they seek technological or technocratic change within a static social framework, within a market framework. Which is really too bad, because the biggest challenges we face — climate change, resource depletion, the disappearance of work in the face of automation — will require nothing less than fundamental change, a new organization of society. If there was ever a time that we needed young people to imagine a different world, that time is now.

We have always been, in the United States, what Lionel Trilling called a business civilization. But we have also always had a range of counterbalancing institutions, countercultural institutions, to advance a different set of values: the churches, the arts, the democratic tradition itself. When the pendulum has swung too far in one direction (and it’s always the same direction), new institutions or movements have emerged, or old ones have renewed their mission. Education in general, and higher education in particular, has always been one of those institutions. But now the market has become so powerful that it’s swallowing the very things that are supposed to keep it in check. Artists are becoming “creatives.” Journalism has become “the media.” Government is bought and paid for. The prosperity gospel has arisen as one of the most prominent movements in American Christianity. And colleges and universities are acting like businesses, and in the service of businesses.

What is to be done? Those very same WASP aristocrats — enough of them, at least, including several presidents of Harvard and Yale — when facing the failure of their own class in the form of the Great Depression, succeeded in superseding themselves and creating a new system, the meritocracy we live with now. But I’m not sure we possess the moral resources to do the same. The WASPs had been taught that leadership meant putting the collective good ahead of your own. But meritocracy means looking out for number one, and neoliberalism doesn’t believe in the collective. As Margaret Thatcher famously said about society, “There’s no such thing. There are individual men and women, and there are families.” As for elite university presidents, they are little more these days than lackeys of the plutocracy, with all the moral stature of the butler in a country house.

Neoliberalism disarms us in another sense as well. For all its rhetoric of freedom and individual initiative, the culture of the market is exceptionally good at inculcating a sense of helplessness. So much of the language around college today, and so much of the negative response to my suggestion that students ought to worry less about pursuing wealth and more about constructing a sense of purpose for themselves, presumes that young people are the passive objects of economic forces. That they have no agency, no options. That they have to do what the market tells them. A Princeton student literally made this argument to me: If the market is incentivizing me to go to Wall Street, he said, then who am I to argue?

I have also had the pleasure, over the past year, of hearing from a lot of people who are pushing back against the dictates of neoliberal education: starting high schools, starting colleges, creating alternatives to high school and college, making documentaries, launching nonprofits, parenting in different ways, conducting their lives in different ways. I welcome these efforts, but none of them address the fundamental problem, which is that we no longer believe in public solutions. We only … [more]
williamderesiewicz  education  highereducation  neoliberalism  capitalism  learning  purpose  stevenpinker  2015  individualism  economics  leadership  missionstatements  courage  confidence  hope  criticalthinking  independence  autonomy  liberalarts  wealth  inequality  citizenship  civics  society  highered  publicpurpose  business  ronaldreagan  billclinton  margaretthatcher  government  media  lioneltrilling  socialgood  creativity  innovation  amywhitaker  service  servicelearning  change  fundamentalchange  systemsthinking  us  civilization  transformation  money  power  aynrand  meritocracy  plutocracy  college  colleges  universities  schools  markets  wallstreet  helplessness  elitism  berniesanders  communitycolleges  aristocracy  reaganism  clintonism  politics  entrepreneurship  volunteerism  rickscott  corporatization  modernity  joshuarothman  greatbooks  1960s  stem  steam  commercialization  davidbrooks 
october 2015 by robertogreco
NYU > Gallatin
"The Gallatin School of Individualized Study, a small innovative college within New York University, gives students the opportunity to design a program of study tailored to their own needs and interests. When students choose Gallatin, they take on the exciting challenge of creating their own curriculum and unique plan for learning. They pursue their individual interests from a personal perspective by taking courses in the various schools of New York University, engaging in self-directed education through independent studies, and participating in experiential learning through internships at New York City's countless institutions, businesses, and arts organizations. Undergraduates experience a thorough grounding in the history of ideas and great books, and graduate students pursue advanced study in interdisciplinary modes of thought."
nyc  nyu  schools  colleges  universities  gallatin  gallatinschoolofindividualizedstudy  individualization  individualized  interdisciplinary  multidisciplinary  porous  openclassroom  explodingschool  crossdisciplinary  generalists  lcproject  unschooling  deschooling  srg  edg  glvo  seminars  seminarmethod  greatbooks  education  learning 
november 2010 by robertogreco
Gallatin School of Individualized Study - Wikipedia
"The Gallatin School of Individualized Study (generally known simply as Gallatin) is a small college within New York University.

Founded in 1972 as the University Without Walls, the school is named after Albert Gallatin, Secretary of the Treasury under Thomas Jefferson, and the founder of NYU. Gallatin believed that the place for a university was not in "the seclusion of cloistered halls but in the throbbing heart of a great city." It was in this spirit that Gallatin was founded. Herbert London was the school's first dean through 1992.

Gallatin aims to provide a "small college" feel, while leveraging its location within one of the largest private universities in the United States. Students are expected to design their own interdisciplinary program that meets their specific interests and career goals. Coursework can be undertaken at any of the schools that comprise NYU. Gallatin currently enrolls 1200 undergraduates and 200 graduate students."
nyc  nyu  schools  colleges  universities  gallatin  gallatinschoolofindividualizedstudy  individualization  individualized  interdisciplinary  multidisciplinary  porous  openclassroom  explodingschool  crossdisciplinary  generalists  mosdef  lcproject  unschooling  deschooling  srg  edg  glvo  seminars  seminarmethod  greatbooks  education  learning 
november 2010 by robertogreco

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