This post continues our month-long seminar about President Adam Falk’s Induction address.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OjUCCuFpfCs&start=280

Liberal education strengthens the mind and spirit so that a human being may more fully engage the world. Since Mark Hopkins’ time a string of Williams educators has further developed this idea. In the middle of the last century Professor Robert Gaudino pushed his charges to learn uncomfortably, in India, in rural America, in situations within the classroom and without that challenged the safe and familiar worlds they’d brought with them. If Mark Hopkins was the first professor to ask his students, “What do you think?” then Gaudino and others, including faculty of today, have raised the asking of that question, with all its implicit challenge, to a form of art.

In the simpler time over which Hopkins presided, virtually all adults on campus were faculty. In this modern age, we are now blessed with staff who, through their support of our academic core and their own interactions with students, are all educators themselves, influencing students lives in ways seen and unseen. None of what Williams has accomplished would have been possible without them.

Kane and Thomas pontificate comment in the extended article

DK
:

1) Robert Gaudino is the most important Williams professor of the last 50 years.

Although he died when I was 7, a great deal of what I am trying to accomplish at EphBlog is directly inspired by Gaudino. Indeed, the category I created to highlight some of my post important posts is “Uncomfortable Learning,” Gaudino’s catch phrase and the title of one of his books. I am the primary author of his Wikipedia page (which needs help). There is no professor that I would rather see mentioned in reference to the proverbial log.

2) By citing Gaudino, and not one of the scores of other excellent Williams professors, Falk is indicating what sorts of attributes he thinks are most important in a Williams professor. Think hard about which aspects those are and which they are not. Hint: Gaudino is not famous for his research . . .

3) Perhaps a shout out to the staff is de rigueur in any induction speech but I hope that Falk will take seriously the claim, with which I agree, that staff are “all educators themselves.” Specifically, I would like to see many more staff teach classes, especially tutorials. Imagine: “The Statistics of Higher Education” led by Chris Winters ’95 or “Sustainability in Practice” by Stephanie Boyd or “Faculty Diversity” by Mike Reed ’75 or “Behind the Curtain: The Operations of an Elite College” by Steve Klass.

Those would all be amazing classes, taught by Williams staff who are experts in their field. Even if only a handful of student signed up for them, both they and their teachers would remember the experience for the rest of their lives. Claims that folks are “too busy” for additional duties are, of course, ridiculous. If Morty had time to teach a tutorial, then any member of the staff does as well.

KT:

Good morning David– let’s see.  You offer a lot of commentary,  but…

oh,  let’s listen.  Falk says:

Liberal education strengthens the mind and spirit so that a human being may more fully engage the world.

Bang!  Have we had a simple declarative statement up to this point?   Here we have an articulation,  of ‘liberal education’ itself is.  Not jut Williams,  but ‘liberal education’ itself.

It still begs the question though– what is this,  ‘liberal education?’  If it’s not simply, what happens at all the liberal arts Colleges,  then what is it?  How do we know it?

Then the speaker says:  it “strengthens the mind and spirit.”  Recall the definitions of a few paragraphs previously,   which somewhat circularly or recursively try to define both ‘place’ and ‘Williams as place’ and instead give us rather,  not concepts of Williams,  but something like figurations of Williams and place upon the screen of the mind.

Here,   we try one definition,   which is by process.   “Liberal education” does something,    and what it does is “strengthen the mind and spirit.”

Much is still unclear to me here.  Is this all that liberal education does?  Can anything which strengthens mind and spirit,  be taken to be part of liberal education?  Are we talking about just Williams College,   or a larger process in the world…?

Then we have:  ‘so that a human being may more fully engage the world.’  This is odd– we’ve started with a functional definition,  then we’ve moved to a practical or contingent one.  Suddenly we have liberal education in the service of something,  not as a sort of abstract,   poetic exercise,  separate from the world,   as presented by many today– Stanley Fish comes to mind–

we could rephrase,  ‘to develop the mind,  so that the human being may fully engage its world.’  Falk uses both mind and spirit– these are a single word in some languages,  and with ‘develop,’   it is almost as if we can see the seed of a human soul being nurtured by the educational process,   and the unfolding and discovery of a life,   a unique human spirit in the world.

So if we have education in the ‘service’ of something here– subservient in some way– this is neither quite a simplified American pragmatism,   what we often mean when we use ‘Dewey’ as a shorthand for the pragmatic tradition– nor quite,  even,  Pierce,   who saw developmental processes in the pragmatic,  but–  but I’m not able to give you those two in a sentence.

so that a human being may more fully engage the world.”  !   Bang!  Note the tone of Falk’s voice here– and throughout,  though we’re not going to tonalities and rhythm here today–  this is very simply stated,   somewhat declarative,   but quiet.  There’s almost a searching part to the tone here,   a searching quality to the voice,  a process of discovery —

WHAT IS ENGAGEMENT IN THE WORLD? Even with all the qualifications that have been set up,   the complexity of definition by a historical framework and reference,  rather than a simplistic ‘this is this–‘  there’s something quite bold going on here.   On the one hand– it’s sort of “this is what we do,  — isn’t it?

And yet this thing,   which is known by what we’ve called it,  ‘engagement’  (‘with the world’)– well,  this is a concept which has not been very popular of late,   especially inside of academia,  but the text,  still hasn’t told us much — there’s no attempt,  for instance,   to fill this concept in,  which the often quite ‘political’ — I mean narrow– definitions of the moments of the 60s,  for instance,  — is there?

And yet as well,   we have this– mind,  world,  spirit,  world– there are commentors such as von Uexkuell,   who give us the idea that mind and world are not really separable,

Since Mark Hopkins’ time a string of Williams educators has further developed this idea.

A lot of history to cover in a single sentence.  I think what Falk may mean,  is that there have been many educators,  who have developed this idea and its methods;  “I am just going to use one example:”

In the middle of the last century Professor Robert Gaudino pushed his charges to learn uncomfortably, in India, in rural America, in situations within the classroom and without that challenged the safe and familiar worlds they’d brought with them.

I have watched the commentary by Paul Lieberman on Gaudino several times,  but am not really familiar enough to offer my own comment.  But it seems interesting to me that a young and developing mind,   can bring a world or two along with it to the College.

I wonder if the worlds,  once they get to the College with the mind– if these worlds continue to develop with the minds associated with them,   as well.   That would be what we call– what is it called– a hermeneutic process?

If Mark Hopkins was the first professor to ask his students, “What do you think?”

I am sure Professor Falk means,  the first professor at Williams College to ask this rather ancient question.  But let me give a quick tour– if — if we look at the Midrashi text about No’ach and Na’amah which we studied yesterday,   or the Platonic texts which explore the nature of ‘good’ action,  or the Gitas,  or– Prof. Crane might remind me of some of the Chinese texts–

I am not familiar enough,  here,  either,   but I might wonder,   what is it about these texts,   and the methods of the teacher,  probing,  into what the mind thinks about these worlds which– well,  what do they do?

At this point in the text,   they seem to be following the mind around,   and sort of surrounding it.

then Gaudino and others, including faculty of today, have raised the asking of that question, with all its implicit challenge, to a form of art.

To a form of art?   Not to an art,   but to a ‘form of art?’   This seems to be compliment,  but the exact ‘form’ it takes,  is worth more exploration.

Instead,  the text breaks to a new paragraph:

In the simpler time over which Hopkins presided, virtually all adults on campus were faculty.

I would really like to know what the writer meant by ‘simpler,’   to characterize an age filled with rapid technological change,  civil war,  conflict,   environmental changes,   social disruptions,   unprecedented migrations… to use the words of the commentator at the New America Foundation.

we are now blessed with staff who, through their support of our academic core and their own interactions with students, are all educators themselves, influencing students lives in ways seen and unseen. None of what Williams has accomplished would have been possible without them.

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