Monday, 30 November 2009

Liz Coleman on present day education

If you followed higher education news in the 1990s, you have an opinion on Liz Coleman. The president of what was once the most expensive college in America, Coleman made a radical, controversial plan to snap the college out of a budget and mission slump -- by ending the tenure system, abolishing academic divisions and yes, firing a lot of professors. It was not a period without drama. But fifteen years on, it appears that the move has paid off. Bennington's emphasis on cross-disciplinary, hands-on learning has attracted capacity classes to the small college, and has built a vibrant environment for a new kind of learning.

Coleman's idea is that higher education is an active pursuit -- a performing art. Her vision calls for lots of one-on-one interactions between professor and student, deep engagement with primary sources, highly individual majors, and the destruction of the traditional academic department. It's a lofty goal that takes plenty of hard work to keep on course.

Selected Quotes:

''What kind of a world are we making?

What kind of a world should we be making?

What kind of a world can we be making?''

''When the impulse is to change the world, the academy is more likely to engender a learned helplessness than to create a sense of empowerment''

''No one has the answers
Everyone has the responsibility''

''History provides a laboratory in which to see
the actual as well as the intended consequences of ideas''

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