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Re: [SACC-L] FW: "The Liberal Arts are Work-Force Development"

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  • Lloyd Miller
    We re on the same wave length, Mark. Mine is still a work in progress, but I ll send you a copy when I m satisfied with. Lloyd ... [Non-text portions of this
    Message 1 of 4 , Jul 14, 2011
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      We're on the same wave length, Mark. Mine is still a work in progress, but I'll send you a copy when I'm satisfied with.
      Lloyd


      On Jul 13, 2011, at 10:33 PM, Mark Lewine wrote:

      > Lloyd, please send your essay to me as I found the essay quietly destructive
      > to anthropology...written by an English Lit. educator with a sadly typical
      > view of Liberal Arts properly done with "history of OUR culture and
      > civilization", and once again we are back to the unilineal Western view that
      > marginalizes anthropology as 'tribal', as non-Western, as the bizarre of
      > human behavior...Hirsch"s cultural literacy...Bloom and others wanting us to
      > return to the "classics" without any diversity of content or culture
      > ----- Original Message -----
      > From: "Lloyd Miller" <lloyd.miller@...>
      > To: <SACC-L@yahoogroups.com>
      > Sent: Wednesday, July 13, 2011 4:33 PM
      > Subject: Re: [SACC-L] FW: "The Liberal Arts are Work-Force Development"
      >
      > > Dianne, you must be prescient. I just completed a draft of an essay for
      > > SACC Notes on anthropology and the liberal arts. This article is most
      > > relevant and timely. Thanks!
      > > Lloyd
      > >
      > >
      > > On Jul 13, 2011, at 11:54 AM, <dianne.chidester@...>
      > > <dianne.chidester@...> wrote:
      > >
      > >> This came from our administration. I thought it might be of interest or
      > >> use to others. -- Dianne
      > >>
      > >> Below is an excellent article from the Chronicle in which the author
      > >> provides his perspective on the role of general education courses at
      > >> Community Colleges; it certainly supports our current mission to
      > >> reinforce communication and critical thinking. The author is Ron
      > >> Jenkins, English Professor at Georgia Perimeter College.
      > >>
      > >> The Liberal Arts Are Work-Force Development
      > >>
      > >> Careers Community College
      > >> Illustration<http://chronicle.com/img/photos/biz/photo_6783_landscape_la
      > >> rge.jpg>
      > >>
      > >> close<http://chronicle.com/img/close.gif>
      > >>
      > >> By Rob Jenkins
      > >>
      > >> Two-year colleges occupy a unique position in the national debate over
      > >> the value of the liberal arts. But it's a position that is generally
      > >> overlooked, if not ignored altogether.
      > >>
      > >> For students who are not liberal-arts majors, the core-curriculum
      > >> courses they are "forced" to take as freshmen and sophomores will
      > >> probably constitute the extent of their dabbling in the liberal arts.
      > >> Those who go on to study business, engineering, or computer science are
      > >> unlikely, as juniors and seniors, to sign up for additional classes in
      > >> literature, biology, psychology, or art appreciation.
      > >>
      > >> Now consider that, according to the American Association of Community
      > >> Colleges, about half of all freshmen and sophomores are enrolled at the
      > >> nation's 1,300 two-year colleges, and many of those students transfer to
      > >> four-year institutions. For a large percentage of people who earn
      > >> bachelor's degrees, then, the liberal-arts portion of their education
      > >> was acquired at a two-year college. Next, factor in all of the
      > >> community-college students who enter the work force after earning
      > >> two-year degrees or certificates, and whose only exposure to the liberal
      > >> arts occurred in whatever core courses their programs required.
      > >>
      > >> The conclusion becomes obvious: Two-year colleges are among the
      > >> country's leading providers of liberal-arts education, although they
      > >> seldom get credit for that role. Many Americans learn at a two-year
      > >> college most of what they will ever learn-in a formal setting, at
      > >> least-about writing, critical thinking, the history of our culture and
      > >> civilization, the environment, and human behavior.
      > >>
      > >> The reality that community colleges are actually liberal-arts
      > >> institutions is at odds with the way two-year campuses are often
      > >> portrayed in the media-and in government press releases-solely as
      > >> engines of work-force development.
      > >>
      > >> I wonder, though, if those seemingly conflicting views of the
      > >> community-college mission are as mutually exclusive as they appear.
      > >> Employers rank communication and analytical skills among the most
      > >> important attributes they seek in new hires, according to the National
      > >> Association of Colleges and Employers. Perhaps those of us who teach
      > >> those very skills at community colleges should embrace the integral role
      > >> we play in preparing the nation's workers rather than rejecting the idea
      > >> of work-force development as somehow beneath us.
      > >>
      > >> Such a paradigm shift would have at least a couple of happy
      > >> consequences. For one thing, we would be able to argue more persuasively
      > >> for the importance of the liberal arts, especially in this era of
      > >> draconian budget cuts and increased oversight by external bodies.
      > >>
      > >> More important, this new perspective could have a positive effect on
      > >> student success. If we come to see ourselves as preparing students not
      > >> just for transfer but ultimately for the work force, students may be
      > >> more likely to understand the relevance of the skills that we teach them
      > >> and better able to use those skills for some purpose other than just
      > >> getting a passing grade. That, according to Susan de la Vergne, a
      > >> nationally recognized expert on preparing liberal-arts graduates for
      > >> careers in non-liberal-arts fields, could give them a tremendous
      > >> advantage.
      > >>
      > >> "Businesses spend a lot of money on 'training' classes for their
      > >> employees," she says. "Classes in business writing, presentation skills,
      > >> business analysis, conflict resolution, emotional intelligence, and
      > >> cross-cultural teamwork are deemed critical to success in today's
      > >> business environment. But most are aimed at essentially backfilling the
      > >> liberal arts, making up for education gaps."
      > >>
      > >> Community-college faculty members are well positioned to help alleviate
      > >> the need for so much "backfill." But to do so, we must reimagine the way
      > >> that we teach. Here are a few suggestions that might help make our
      > >> courses more practical, relevant, and useful for non-liberal-arts
      > >> majors.
      > >>
      > >> Require lots of writing. As the management guru Peter Drucker argued,
      > >> communication is the one skill required of all professionals, regardless
      > >> of field. "As soon as you take one step up the career ladder," he said,
      > >> "your effectiveness depends on your ability to communicate your thoughts
      > >> in writing and in speaking." Of course, the larger the organization, the
      > >> more likely that the bulk of that communicating will involve writing.
      > >> That has been true for years, but never more so than today, when
      > >> practically every white-collar (or no-collar) worker in the country
      > >> begins the day by checking and responding to e-mail.
      > >>
      > >> Meanwhile, the recent landmark book Academically Adrift found that half
      > >> of the students the authors surveyed had taken fewer than five courses
      > >> that required 20 pages or more of writing. So in a world where degreed
      > >> professionals are required to write more and more, apparently our
      > >> institutions of higher education are asking students to write less and
      > >> less.
      > >>
      > >> Is there something wrong with this picture?
      > >>
      > >> Clearly, one of the best things we can do for students is to require
      > >> them to write-a lot. I understand that some faculty members teach large
      > >> sections and can't grade four or five essays from each of their many
      > >> students. But professors who administer nothing but multiple-choice
      > >> tests are shortchanging their students. Instructors can assign and grade
      > >> at least one or two writing assignments, or perhaps include a short
      > >> essay as part of each test. They can also create writing assignments
      > >> that don't have to be graded, in the traditional sense, such as journal
      > >> entries and online posts. Any writing is better than none at all, and
      > >> writing that will be evaluated (if not graded) by peers may be the most
      > >> useful of all.
      > >>
      > >> Focus on critical thinking. A common complaint of employers, as
      > >> reflected in the NACE survey, is that many workers have difficulty
      > >> thinking for themselves. They may be thoroughly trained, having mastered
      > >> all of the concepts in the textbooks, but, inevitably, situations arise
      > >> that weren't covered in the books. When that happens, the ability to
      > >> think critically, independently, and creatively becomes indispensable.
      > >> Too many workers lack that ability, perhaps because, as Academically
      > >> Adrift suggests, we're not emphasizing it enough in our college
      > >> classrooms.
      > >>
      > >> Sure, we've all had the "critical thinking" mantra drilled into our
      > >> heads. But has it stuck? How many of us actually require our students to
      > >> analyze material in an in-depth way (as opposed to providing them with
      > >> convenient study sheets)? How many of us require them to draw
      > >> inferences, make connections, reach and defend conclusions? Our
      > >> liberal-arts courses are the ideal places to teach those cognitive
      > >> skills that students need to be successful in the workplace. In fact,
      > >> teaching that kind of deep thinking should the hallmark of every
      > >> liberal-arts course. That's what liberal-arts courses do best.
      > >>
      > >> Bring the real world into the classroom. Another strategy we can adopt,
      > >> if we want our courses to be more relevant, is to make our class
      > >> discussions, case studies, experiments, and assignments as
      > >> real-world-based as possible.
      > >>
      > >> For example, in my composition courses, I not only allow students to
      > >> choose their own essay topics, but I also encourage them to write about
      > >> issues related to their prospective majors. I also assign reading (in
      > >> addition to the old textbook standbys) from newspapers, popular
      > >> magazines, even the Internet. Last semester I taught writing using an
      > >> essay from Yahoo! on improving credit scores.
      > >>
      > >> We should also emphasize problem-solving in our assignments and class
      > >> activities. For research papers, I require students to identify a
      > >> specific problem within the field they plan to enter and then explore
      > >> various solutions. That's a very practical form of critical thinking.
      > >>
      > >> Make the connection. Take advantage of every opportunity to connect what
      > >> students are doing in class with what they will be doing some day as
      > >> employees.
      > >>
      > >> My students hear the term "the real world" so much that, by the middle
      > >> of the term, they're starting to roll their eyes. But it's important for
      > >> them to understand that the work we're doing now in class isn't just a
      > >> series of meaningless exercises, another set of hoops for them to jump
      > >> through on their way to a degree. They're going to have to do these
      > >> things for real one day-describe processes, do research to find
      > >> solutions, draw comparisons-and my course may be the last time anyone
      > >> ever actually teaches them how.
      > >>
      > >> I'm fortunate to bring a wealth of real-world experience to my teaching,
      > >> as a copywriter, technical editor, and former midlevel manager. While I
      > >> recognize that not all faculty members enjoy that same advantage, most
      > >> should have some idea of what goes on in their fields outside of the
      > >> classroom. If not, they can always import that experience by bringing in
      > >> guest speakers or studying relevant essays or video clips.
      > >>
      > >> As we link the knowledge and skills that we teach to the sorts of
      > >> activities in which employees routinely engage, we will be providing our
      > >> students with the very best kind of work-force development. In time,
      > >> those students-tomorrow's taxpayers-may come to better understand the
      > >> relevance of the liberal arts, as they see how our courses helped them
      > >> reach their professional goals. One day they might even stop rolling
      > >> their eyes.
      > >>
      > >> Rob Jenkins is an associate professor of English at Georgia Perimeter
      > >> College. He blogs at www.nccforum.org and writes monthly for our
      > >> community-college column. A book of his essays, "Building a Career in
      > >> America's Community Colleges," has been published by the American
      > >> Association of Community Colleges and the Community College Press.
      > >>
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