From American Scholar To Global Player

Reading Time: 6 minutes

From Cogswell Polytechnical College in San Jose, California, Dr. Deborah Snyder and John Duhring, authors of a new higher education series in advance of their upcoming book, tentatively titled “Old School, New School, No School,” provide a new perspective on what higher education means and how it can be more effectively experienced across the globe. Read earlier pieces here “View from the US.”

By Deborah Snyder, PhD and John Duhring, Cogswell Polytechnical College, San Jose, California

One-room schoolhouse

In 1837, the eminent American writer Ralph Waldo Emerson delivered an address to the Phi Beta Kappa society at Harvard which has set the tone for higher education ever since. Phi Beta Kappa is America’s oldest and most widely recognized collegiate honor society and a leading advocate for the liberal arts and sciences at the undergraduate level. Emerson’s essay speaks of the American Scholar. The resonance of his vision continues strongly to this day and should be understood deeply whenever we talk about higher education. His presentation is readily accessible 

Emerson spoke at a time when industrialization was in it’s infancy. Steam-powered locomotion was catching on and Morse sent his first coded electrical telegram a year later. These two technologies provided the foundation for what lay just ahead, empowering far-sighted entrepreneurs to build empires rivaling those of any government. Emerson must have sensed the cultural shifts that would come, in which any man could live by his wits and his industriousness. We live now at a similar time of radical change, in which transformative technologies are available to a much wider population around the globe.

Ralph Waldo Emerson was an American essayist, lecturer, and poet who led the Transcendentalist movement of the mid-19th century
Ralph Waldo Emerson was an American essayist, lecturer, and poet who led the Transcendentalist movement of the mid-19th century

The guidance Emerson gave to his audience of the “best and brightest” at Harvard now applies to every student entering or engaged in higher education. To decode his messages into today’s language can provide something of a Rosetta Stone to understand what higher education is and how it will grow. And, it’s remarkable how what he has to say reflects what has been said in earlier times as well.

“Principles for the Development of a Complete Mind: Study the science of art. Study the art of science. Develop your senses- especially learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else.” – Leonardo da Vinci

Emerson distinguished higher education in no uncertain terms. He speaks of a highly specialized society, in which the planter never interacts with the gatherer on the farm. Each becomes diminished to the level of their trade and not “Man on the farm”. He applies this perspective to include the tradesman (who “scarcely ever gives an ideal worth to his work, but is ridden by the routine of his craft, and the soul is subject to dollars”), the priest, the attorney, the mechanic and the sailor.

He then speaks to how each of these can regain their full selves (“the right state”) and to reap the rewards of “Man Thinking”. Importantly, he distinguishes this condition from merely thinking, “or still worse, the parrot of other men’s thinking”. While he had no words for imagination, curiosity, or creativity, it is striking how powerfully his message would address what is lacking in what we now call higher education. This speech has been famously referred to as an “Intellectual Declaration of Independence”.

Unfortunately, what Emerson suggested was re-imagined again in 1893, as the need for factory workers prompted an assembly-line approach to education which has persisted to this day.

The process of preparing students for tests rather than life itself has produced students without a solid sense of purpose or direction. Much of secondary schooling today is by the book and by the bell, without much room for play, imagination or invention. There is no time for “show and tell”, and no space for play. Without a sense of who they are and their own unique perspective, it’s no wonder that many students cannot see around the corner. They lack resiliency, the disposition formed by the process of exploring problems that they don’t know how to solve initially. Students who continue to pass through college without experiencing what higher education is all about risk being lost, without the ability to put themselves to work.

What’s In It For “Sal and Mel”?

Higher education at an individual level consists of imagination and scientific reasoning coupled with action to facilitate personal growth. Whether the description comes from Plato, Leonardo da Vinci, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Yogi Berra or John Seely Brown, what they point to hasn’t changed much over centuries of human adaptation. At certain points within people’s lives, they have a choice to change in a fundamental way. This is not “schooling”, in which someone tells them what to do then measures their progress. This is their choice to play with something new, to examine what is in front of them and to act with conviction.

Everyone experiences this kind of change. Take birthday’s, as a trivial example. The feelings we get in the days leading up to our own birthday recognize that our lives will change forever on that day. At least, we will be one year older. Perhaps at a younger age, we learn our dreams might come true or we might be surprised by what occurs beyond any imagining. We bring that experience forward: unknowing but knowing at the same time. We prepare ourselves for change. This readiness is what students must bring with them for higher education to take effect.

Uni-SalUni-mel

 

 

 

 

 

Our two extreme example high school graduates, Sal and Mel, probably prepare themselves for birthdays in quite different ways. For the superstar, Sal, birthdays might mean so many gifts that the day has lost the vibrancy that used to delight him. His sense of self-worth, of entitlement, strips him of experiencing the changes that are in play. He retreats into the role of the birthday boy. His “invincibility cloak” prevents him from participating fully in the event. For Sal, an important college experience will include the cracking of the cloak. His adaptations might be inspired not only in the classroom, but on a sports team or fraternity house. Established peer groups have as much to do with saving Sal as do inspiring teachers.

On the other hand, Mel might employ his “invisibility cloak” even for his own birthday. Gifts and recognition go unexamined. He has separated himself from the events around him in order to withstand the ordeal. For him, finding and connecting with others like him is an essential art of college life. The discovery of likeness might not be through overt behaviors but at a more nuanced level, through discussion and shared thoughts. For Mel, his invisibility cloak evaporates once he has a sense of safety to step into the light of day and accept what is in front of him.

What Form Does College Take?

Colleges and any new form of higher education must confront the issues raised here. Students, as suggested by centuries of teachings, learn from direct observation, from making sense of the things they observe and by rendering out new versions of themselves along with their work. By embracing such a view of higher education, we can develop effective new methods to engage more students and to address the issues we now face.

Fortunately, today’s students have the equivalent of the railroad and the telegraph in their pockets. Using high tech is no longer for techies alone. Growing industries are eager to employ those equipped to participate in essential services- in transportation, health care, housing, food/water supply and government. These tools and needs must be embraced and harnessed throughout the college experience.

Programming bootcamp in Boston
Programming bootcamp in Boston

The current mismatch of students with college degrees but no jobs has created massive non-traditional educational opportunities. Of these, online coding academies and immersive bootcamps have sprung to prominence. Their typical student has already received a college degree. This kind of student wants to transition into growing industries, either while working (in the case of online courses) or by immersing themselves for a short period. Recently, the Department of Education has sought to couple non-traditional higher educational programs with accredited institutions. It’s too early to tell if the “Experimental Sites” initiative will take hold, but it demonstrates the level of adaptation that colleges now face.

The transition from personal life to professional life takes time for students right out of high school, including those like Sal and Mel. Establishing a safe space and providing inspiration through faculty and community sets in motion personal transformations and much more. The meaningful application of their capabilities deserves to be the centerpiece of their college experience. Shifting how we view higher education starts with understand that “…getting into college or being at college are not the marks of people who are smart. They are part of a person striving to become smarter.” 

The four-year college process, then, supports adaptation by deepening a student’s capabilities while expanding their capacity to perform. Colleges increasingly find they are preparing students to compete effectively against older graduates emerging from bootcamps and online nanodegrees. However, these new processes fail to tackle the core issues young people face as they become Global Players, Entrepreneurial Learners and Man Thinking. Elite-level higher education starts when students out of high school arrive at the same place- when they accept that their own peers, passion and sense of purpose form the basis on which to adapt and grow.

Do you like this post?
  • Fascinated
  • Happy
  • Sad
  • Angry
  • Bored
  • Afraid

From Cogswell Polytechnical College in San Jose, California, Dr. Deborah Snyder and John Duhring, authors of a new higher education series in advance of their upcoming book, tentatively titled “Old School, New School, No School,” provide a new perspective on what higher education means and how it can be more effectively experienced across the globe. Read earlier pieces here “View from the US.” By Deborah Snyder, PhD and John Duhring, Cogswell Polytechnical College, San Jose, California In 1837, the eminent American writer Ralph Waldo Emerson delivered an address to the Phi Beta Kappa society at Harvard which has set the tone...

Reading Time: 6 minutes

From Cogswell Polytechnical College in San Jose, California, Dr. Deborah Snyder and John Duhring, authors of a new higher education series in advance of their upcoming book, tentatively titled “Old School, New School, No School,” provide a new perspective on what higher education means and how it can be more effectively experienced across the globe. Read earlier pieces here “View from the US.”

By Deborah Snyder, PhD and John Duhring, Cogswell Polytechnical College, San Jose, California

One-room schoolhouse

In 1837, the eminent American writer Ralph Waldo Emerson delivered an address to the Phi Beta Kappa society at Harvard which has set the tone for higher education ever since. Phi Beta Kappa is America’s oldest and most widely recognized collegiate honor society and a leading advocate for the liberal arts and sciences at the undergraduate level. Emerson’s essay speaks of the American Scholar. The resonance of his vision continues strongly to this day and should be understood deeply whenever we talk about higher education. His presentation is readily accessible 

Emerson spoke at a time when industrialization was in it’s infancy. Steam-powered locomotion was catching on and Morse sent his first coded electrical telegram a year later. These two technologies provided the foundation for what lay just ahead, empowering far-sighted entrepreneurs to build empires rivaling those of any government. Emerson must have sensed the cultural shifts that would come, in which any man could live by his wits and his industriousness. We live now at a similar time of radical change, in which transformative technologies are available to a much wider population around the globe.

Ralph Waldo Emerson was an American essayist, lecturer, and poet who led the Transcendentalist movement of the mid-19th century
Ralph Waldo Emerson was an American essayist, lecturer, and poet who led the Transcendentalist movement of the mid-19th century

The guidance Emerson gave to his audience of the “best and brightest” at Harvard now applies to every student entering or engaged in higher education. To decode his messages into today’s language can provide something of a Rosetta Stone to understand what higher education is and how it will grow. And, it’s remarkable how what he has to say reflects what has been said in earlier times as well.

“Principles for the Development of a Complete Mind: Study the science of art. Study the art of science. Develop your senses- especially learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else.” – Leonardo da Vinci

Emerson distinguished higher education in no uncertain terms. He speaks of a highly specialized society, in which the planter never interacts with the gatherer on the farm. Each becomes diminished to the level of their trade and not “Man on the farm”. He applies this perspective to include the tradesman (who “scarcely ever gives an ideal worth to his work, but is ridden by the routine of his craft, and the soul is subject to dollars”), the priest, the attorney, the mechanic and the sailor.

He then speaks to how each of these can regain their full selves (“the right state”) and to reap the rewards of “Man Thinking”. Importantly, he distinguishes this condition from merely thinking, “or still worse, the parrot of other men’s thinking”. While he had no words for imagination, curiosity, or creativity, it is striking how powerfully his message would address what is lacking in what we now call higher education. This speech has been famously referred to as an “Intellectual Declaration of Independence”.

Unfortunately, what Emerson suggested was re-imagined again in 1893, as the need for factory workers prompted an assembly-line approach to education which has persisted to this day.

The process of preparing students for tests rather than life itself has produced students without a solid sense of purpose or direction. Much of secondary schooling today is by the book and by the bell, without much room for play, imagination or invention. There is no time for “show and tell”, and no space for play. Without a sense of who they are and their own unique perspective, it’s no wonder that many students cannot see around the corner. They lack resiliency, the disposition formed by the process of exploring problems that they don’t know how to solve initially. Students who continue to pass through college without experiencing what higher education is all about risk being lost, without the ability to put themselves to work.

What’s In It For “Sal and Mel”?

Higher education at an individual level consists of imagination and scientific reasoning coupled with action to facilitate personal growth. Whether the description comes from Plato, Leonardo da Vinci, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Yogi Berra or John Seely Brown, what they point to hasn’t changed much over centuries of human adaptation. At certain points within people’s lives, they have a choice to change in a fundamental way. This is not “schooling”, in which someone tells them what to do then measures their progress. This is their choice to play with something new, to examine what is in front of them and to act with conviction.

Everyone experiences this kind of change. Take birthday’s, as a trivial example. The feelings we get in the days leading up to our own birthday recognize that our lives will change forever on that day. At least, we will be one year older. Perhaps at a younger age, we learn our dreams might come true or we might be surprised by what occurs beyond any imagining. We bring that experience forward: unknowing but knowing at the same time. We prepare ourselves for change. This readiness is what students must bring with them for higher education to take effect.

Uni-SalUni-mel

 

 

 

 

 

Our two extreme example high school graduates, Sal and Mel, probably prepare themselves for birthdays in quite different ways. For the superstar, Sal, birthdays might mean so many gifts that the day has lost the vibrancy that used to delight him. His sense of self-worth, of entitlement, strips him of experiencing the changes that are in play. He retreats into the role of the birthday boy. His “invincibility cloak” prevents him from participating fully in the event. For Sal, an important college experience will include the cracking of the cloak. His adaptations might be inspired not only in the classroom, but on a sports team or fraternity house. Established peer groups have as much to do with saving Sal as do inspiring teachers.

On the other hand, Mel might employ his “invisibility cloak” even for his own birthday. Gifts and recognition go unexamined. He has separated himself from the events around him in order to withstand the ordeal. For him, finding and connecting with others like him is an essential art of college life. The discovery of likeness might not be through overt behaviors but at a more nuanced level, through discussion and shared thoughts. For Mel, his invisibility cloak evaporates once he has a sense of safety to step into the light of day and accept what is in front of him.

What Form Does College Take?

Colleges and any new form of higher education must confront the issues raised here. Students, as suggested by centuries of teachings, learn from direct observation, from making sense of the things they observe and by rendering out new versions of themselves along with their work. By embracing such a view of higher education, we can develop effective new methods to engage more students and to address the issues we now face.

Fortunately, today’s students have the equivalent of the railroad and the telegraph in their pockets. Using high tech is no longer for techies alone. Growing industries are eager to employ those equipped to participate in essential services- in transportation, health care, housing, food/water supply and government. These tools and needs must be embraced and harnessed throughout the college experience.

Programming bootcamp in Boston
Programming bootcamp in Boston

The current mismatch of students with college degrees but no jobs has created massive non-traditional educational opportunities. Of these, online coding academies and immersive bootcamps have sprung to prominence. Their typical student has already received a college degree. This kind of student wants to transition into growing industries, either while working (in the case of online courses) or by immersing themselves for a short period. Recently, the Department of Education has sought to couple non-traditional higher educational programs with accredited institutions. It’s too early to tell if the “Experimental Sites” initiative will take hold, but it demonstrates the level of adaptation that colleges now face.

The transition from personal life to professional life takes time for students right out of high school, including those like Sal and Mel. Establishing a safe space and providing inspiration through faculty and community sets in motion personal transformations and much more. The meaningful application of their capabilities deserves to be the centerpiece of their college experience. Shifting how we view higher education starts with understand that “…getting into college or being at college are not the marks of people who are smart. They are part of a person striving to become smarter.” 

The four-year college process, then, supports adaptation by deepening a student’s capabilities while expanding their capacity to perform. Colleges increasingly find they are preparing students to compete effectively against older graduates emerging from bootcamps and online nanodegrees. However, these new processes fail to tackle the core issues young people face as they become Global Players, Entrepreneurial Learners and Man Thinking. Elite-level higher education starts when students out of high school arrive at the same place- when they accept that their own peers, passion and sense of purpose form the basis on which to adapt and grow.

Do you like this post?
  • Fascinated
  • Happy
  • Sad
  • Angry
  • Bored
  • Afraid