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What Colleges Will Teach in 2025

3 Oct

If you haven’t read this piece from Time yet, consider doing so. My oldest daughter will be a high-school senior in 2025. What will school look like for her? Well, some of that depends on which question we decide to pursue: should we be asking what students should know or what students should know how to do? The easiest answer, in my mind, is ‘yes’ to both of those. And I would elaborate:

  • Do they participate in the conversations of their communities?

In my mind, this is really the central issue. Participation requires asking questions. It requires finding and developing honest, well-argued, complex, balanced, open-minded answers. It requires reading and writing and listening and speaking. And it can exist anywhere. Whether you’re a lawyer or a student or a homeowner reading your water bill or a citizen in a town attending a town meeting or a pet owner interacting with other pet owners or a politician or a child or whatever, are you participating? You know, lurking is one thing – acquiring information without responding to it – but we want our communities, whatever they are, to be filled with individuals willing to speak up.

I can’t remember everything I’ve read, and there is a whole heap of literature that, as an English major, I probably should have read but haven’t yet. I am of two minds about this: first, you can’t read everything, so there’s that. However, it is important to have foundational knowledge. When I was in graduate school, I constantly saw parallels between what I was learning as a graduate student in rhetoric and composition and how I had learned French. I remember that transition time when I was learning French, right before reaching a level of fluency where I could have a conversation and feel like everything I had learned was coming together. In graduate school, when I began reading texts that referred to other texts with which I was familiar, I began to anticipate that same transition to fluency, and that feels good. It feels good as a person to feel like you are a part of a conversation. Kids need to have access to that dynamic as well. And it’s absolutely impossible for us to teach this to them as little pills of information to swallow. If we want to do better, we respect them as individuals, connect them to their communities, and watch them grow.




How much do you pay for college?

14 Sep

Um. Wow. One of my Facebook friends, another Middlebury alumna, posted this provocative article (Read it.) about a new organization called Money at Midd, which begins every meeting with students announcing how much of the tuition they and their families paid every year. WOW. I can’t imagine having taken part in that as a student there. Weirdly, many of us scholarship kids ended up flocking together (anyone else experience something like that?). Even though we didn’t talk about it, I guess we must have been aware, to some extent, of socioeconomic status – who had a car on campus? who had a job? who had appropriate winter gear? who went skiing? who went home for the holidays? – and we formed a ragtag gang. Thinking back on it though, many of us were southerners, and though many of the southerners were attending this small, liberal arts school in VT on scholarship, not all of us were. Was this more a southern culture grouping, or a socioeconomic one, or something else entirely? And, really, thinking about my 10 or so closest friends in college – I guess I couldn’t really pick out any homogeny. Hmmm. You know, actually, I think it was mostly that we were just all dorks. What do wealthy / middle-class / working class kids from New Mexico / Arkansas / Alabama / North Carolina / Connecticut / Maine / India / Germany really have in common? Well, we went to the farmers’ market on Saturdays during our freshman year to buy vegetables for the evenings’ “Veggie Parties”. We skipped partying for early-morning studying, and we spent our free time (wait, did we have any free time?) having extra-long meals in the dining halls or watching the ubiquitous a cappella groups or going on hikes or bike rides. Right. So, I’ve come to this conclusion – in my case, it wasn’t socioeconomic status or geography or race or anything like that forming my group of friends in college. Nope, that was just plain geeky-ness. I can live with that.

But I digress. I think that the idea of kids talking about how much they pay for college is an interesting one, and in this era when the cost of college just keeps going up and up, it seems to have become an essential conversation.

Let’s try it out – how much did you and your family pay for college? Oh, touchy subject, right? 🙂