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