By the summer of 1954, the students at Penn State had grown impatient. The world had settled into a Cold War, the nuclear arms race threatened total annihilation, and the students felt unprepared to address the urgent demands of the complex international situation into which they would graduate.
Fifty-nine years ago today, on June 9, 1955, President Dwight Eisenhower addressed the centennial graduating class of Penn State, where his brother, Milton, was president of the university. Two things were on the President’s mind that afternoon, nuclear energy and general education.
At the Penn State General Education Spring 2014 retreat, we decided to begin anew with GenEd as we try to find ways to feasibly adopt a curriculum that would be animated by substantive integrative learning outcomes. At the retreat, we ripped up the planned agenda, and started thinking anew about how to create a curriculum worthy of our Penn State students.
The Information Technology unit at Penn State holds IT Matters breakfasts a few times a year. This semester I joined colleagues on stage to talk about my work and how it intersects with IT at Penn State.
Because we have partnered with Brad Koslek and the TLT Studio to create a dynamic online space of dialogue and conversation about General Education reform at Penn State, they asked me about the PSUGenEd reform process. My 4 minute riff on GenEd, its importance, and how we are trying to change it at Penn State is embedded below.
Our partnership with the TLT Studio has gone some distance in modeling a way of using digital media to cultivate community around an important education reform issue. Because Penn State is a single university geographically dispersed, the GenEd Matters site has become a kind of marketplace of ideas and information about the GenEd reform process. We have sought to include a wide public in these conversations and, as a result, we have received an enormous amount of very helpful feedback on the process and suggestions for the emerging curriculum.
The site is continually being updated, its functionality improved even as we use it to engage in conversation. It’s a little like rebuilding the ship of Theseus as we sail it. Still, it is an intensely collaborative endeavor as we think about how design impacts discussion and how transformative reform can be undertaken in and with a thoughtful public.
You are invited to watch the video and join the conversation.
One of the values we hope to integrate into the new General Education curriculum at Penn State is the recognition of the importance of public deliberation. Deliberating in public is difficult; it requires certain intellectual and ethical habits that are often underdeveloped in a culture saturated by hyperbole and stark dichotomies.
I have always sought to integrate my philosophical commitments into my administrative life.
So, when Noëlle McAfee came to campus to deliver a paper entitled, “Deliberation and the Affective Dimensions of Public Will-formation,” I found myself returning to the question of general education reform at Penn State.
By the time we took the stage as the final panel of the day, we had heard the voices of expert educators, faculty, administrators, employers and alums speak about the value and importance of general education. Now it was our turn.
But this panel was to be reversed, with panelists asking questions of the audience and listening attentively in response.