With support from the Provost’s office, I participated in the 2013 annual faculty seminar at Transylvania University liberal arts education in the 21st century. For three days in July, the seminar participants discussed educational philosophy and pedagogy, with the intent of preparing ourselves for ongoing conversations at our home institutions and in the nation about the future of liberal education. The 15 seminar participants were selected from an applicant pool of more than 50 to reflect the diversity within the professorate at liberal arts colleges, and included faculty from the social sciences, humanities, and natural sciences. Hanover, Pomona, Carleton, Kenyon, Franklin and Marshall, and Middlebury Colleges, among others, were represented at the seminar, as well as H&WS.
The reading material for the seminar comprised an historical overview of theoretical perspectives on the purpose of liberal education: e.g., Robert Maynard Hutchins, John Dewey, and Allan Bloom. I was struck by the continuing theme of tension between an elitist understanding of who should be liberally educated (and why), versus a somewhat more democratic (or pragmatic?) model of the purpose(s) of liberal education. I was also surprised to realize that in the strict sense, H&WS does not offer a liberal education – and I did not receive a liberal education as an undergraduate at Oberlin College. Yet both of these institutions fit the common-sense definitions of liberal arts colleges. As we move towards our curricular review next year, I hope we’ll have the opportunity to talk with each other about the contours and purpose of a liberal education in the 21st century, especially in light of the fiscal challenges faced by institutions like our own.
This summer, Jim Spates knowing that he and a number of HWS colleagues (Mark Jones and Jack Harris) would not be directing the program in Vietnam much longer, led a group of prospective faculty directors from HWS and Union to Vietnam for a two-week overview of the country. The general responses and reports seem to be positive. The main idea being that our Global Education Program is a vital part of what H&WS do, and Vietnam’s success over the decade is a great part of that.
Also this summer Jim gave four invited talks on his main research subject, the 19th Century art and social critic, John Ruskin. Two were at The Hillside Club, Berkeley, CA. The first was “Why Ruskin Still Matters,” an “Introduction” to his life and work for an organization which was founded on his principles of art, architecture, and the environment in the late 1800s, but about what and whom the current membership knew little; the second and third talks were given in England: “Solving the Riddle of Ruskin’s Sexuality” was delivered to the Ruskin Research Seminar, Lancaster University, on May 5, and has since become the subject of a scholarly article on which he is now working; “Ruskin and Brantwood: Forgotten Sources from 1870-1900,” these being the years he lived in his house in the Lake District, now preserved by the National Trust (for the existence of which, Ruskin’s work was foundational); the talk was given to The Friends of Ruskin’s Brantwood. The last talk was also given at the Hillside Club in Berkeley, on July 13: “Unto This Last: A Synthesis of the Critical Ideas in Ruskin’s Most Important Sociological Work”; this talk has also become the subject of a scholarly paper which he is now writing.
In addition, the Berkeley talks were so successful that he has been asked back (with three other colleagues) to present another talk on Ruskin’s importance in a conference now scheduled for late May 2014; he was also asked to be the keynote speaker at the Roycroft Conference on the Arts and Crafts in East Aurora, NY, on October 17. There he spoke on Ruskin’s classic, “The Seven Lamps of Architecture.”
Jim Sutton attended the National Gang Crime Research Center’s 16th Annual International Gang Specialist Training Conference in Chicago, where he earned gang specialist certifications and conducted a training session on interviewing techniques.