The Roanoke Times, in there article, Our view: Sweet Briar does what it wasn't supposed to do; it reopens quotes a banner welcoming students back to Sweet Briar College saying, “This is going to be a legendary year.” They note that in other years, this would seem just sloganeering, but this year at Sweet Briar is going to be legendary. It already is legendary.
For those who missed my previous blog posts about Sweet Briar, this was the women’s college in Virginia whose board of directors voted to close the school last spring. It was cited as another casualty of changes in higher education, where liberal arts, and women’s colleges just aren’t valued as much anymore. Yet not everyone shares the same view about the value of women’s colleges and liberal arts education and a group of alumna and other concerned people gather, and fought successfully to keep it up.
Yes, this is going to be a legendary year for everyone at Sweet Briar. It is the spirit and attitude that we should be encouraging students with. It makes me think of how leaders in Hartford welcomed students to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. School
The group — Hartford businessmen, lawyers, community organizers, city politicians, artists, neighborhood dignitaries, a police officer in uniform — erupted in cheers and whoops for Jamar, giving the boy high-fives and handshakes as if he were LeBron James being introduced at Game 7 of the NBA Finals.
I hope it will be a legendary year for those students in Hartford as well.
All of this provides a stunning contrast to how freshman women were welcomed at Old Dominion University in Virginia, 200 miles east of Sweet Briar. The Sigma Nu fraternity there made national news, when their activities were suspended after putting up banners saying “Rowdy and Fun, Hope Your Baby Girl is Ready for a Good Time.”
In all the discussions about charter schools, high stake testing, and so many other educational issues today, we tend to overlook the educational culture and climate. Sweet Briar College in Virginia and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. School in Hartford get it right.
“This is going to be a legendary year.”
The other day, I stumbled across a blog post by Jeffrey Keefer, Why I am no longer a Critical Theorist. Now, I only have passing knowledge of critical theory or actor-network theory, which he goes on to talk about, so my reactions may make a lot of sense.
In his post, he writes:
However, people are so complicated and networks create, hold together, and modify with forces beyond just the human actors (cf. actor-network theory) that is it difficult to speak for the whole as if there is a unified whole.
My mind wanders to a couple different thoughts here. On the one hand, I think about the transcendent, the mystical, that which passes human understanding. How, if at all, does this fit into of critical theory or actor-network theory?
My thoughts also go to my interest in the relationship between group relations, group analytics, and artificial neural networks. The network is more than just the nodes. The group has reactions above and beyond must the members of the group.
Jeffrey starts off referencing Maha Bali’s blog post, Embracing Paradox: Both/And Mentality and Postmodernism. At the top of the blog post, she suggest a three minute reading time. Then, she links to “Matt Croslin’s blogpost on metamodernism and heutagogy”. My thoughts wander off to metamodernism and how it relates to modernism and postmodernism, another area, I could spend a lot of time exploring.
Oops. My three minutes is up, and I haven’t even gotten to her link to “Martin Weller’s post on the role personality plays in MOOCs” or Lee Skallerup Bessette post about “social media activity as service”.
So, I back my way out and am back with Jeffrey as he references Lyotard. It seems like just digging through all that underlies these few blog posts could give me plenty to study for a long time.
Meanwhile, the link to my previous blog post in Facebook group brought a lot of comments. Some of it was around the conflict of colleges and universities as degree granting organizations and learning institutions. That is an old discussion that I find tedious. However, I did get the discussion back on track about the subject matter, which I’m still not sure how best to describe. Currently, I saying something like Metamodernism and Sacred Aesthetics. One link that looked promising was The Modern and the Postmodern (Part 1) and Part 2. Part 2 is the part that sounds most interesting to me, but I might do both of them.
Others suggested, “Douglas Crimp at University of Rochester and Yvonne Rainer at UC Irvine” and “Athabasca University in the MAIS program Master of Arts integrated studies and see what they say. See if you can talk to Wendell Kisner”
So, there are plenty of things to explore, on top of the poems to read, plays to see, folk music to listen to, and my greater spiritual quest.
This year, I participated in #rhizo15, a cMOOC. I also participated in a couple MOOCs on Poetry and a conference on Poetry in Church. So, I have a question, particularly for my #rhizo15 friends, because I suspect they are the most likely to come up with a suggestion.
I am looking for a graduate degree program for someone who never finished their undergraduate degree that combines all of the above. Something like:
A Modern/Postmodern/metamodern/structuralist/poststructuralist (metastructuralist?) program bringing in ideas from Deleuze, Guattari, Lacan, Foucault, Derrida, Barthes, etc., focusing on poetry, theology, and mysticism. From Roland Barthes to Karl Barth.
A Connectivist Master’s of Poststructural Sacred Fine Arts?
Any thoughts, ideas, recommendations?
Over the past few months, there have been a few things that have captured a large amount of my attention, the #Rhizo15 cMOOC, the Love Bade Me Welcome poetry workshop at Yale Institute of Sacred Music, and the discussions about race, from Rachel Dolezal to the shooting in Charleston.
How do these fit together? I’m not sure, but perhaps the wanderings of my mind can help bring a little focus. I started off this evening, looking at online theological education online. One of my first stops was The Top 20 Online Theology Master’s Degree Programs. There is a lot more out there than I thought there was. So, I started looking for theological MOOCs, but I didn’t find so much there. The little bit that I did find was more on the level of Introduction to the New Testament. From there, I started looking for philosophy MOOCs and other esoteric MOOCs. Anyone up for a Lacan MOOC?
This led me back to the #RHIZO15 group. Even though the MOOC is officially over, the community lives on and recently, one of the posts was to a Google Doc, Charleston Syllabus (by and for Philosophers). It looks like some interesting material. One link was to Why is my curriculum white? In this video there was lots of talk about colonialism and empire.
This reminded me of a book someone had mentioned on Facebook, In the Shadow of Empire: Reclaiming the Bible as a History of Faithful Resistance
It brought me full circle me thoughts about theological education. To what extent is theology education today white? Or, if not white, Laodicean?
(Preface) I set up Orient Lodge over ten years ago as a place where I could consolidate much of my writing. My writing has changed style from time to time, and currently, I’m writing in a more personal style.
This weekend, I attended my college thirty-fifth reunion. They’ve always been strange events for me, since I never graduated. The college required an ‘Independent study’ (IS) thesis. My thesis was not accepted and I was told if I wanted a degree, I could write a new thesis. Instead, I left, saying that I had come for an education, and not necessarily a degree, and I had gotten my education.
When people asked for details, I would talk about a great course I had been taking on Virginia Woolf and how I had gotten very interested in stream of consciousness writing. I wrote my thesis in a stream of consciousness manner maintaining we needed to view Socrates as an anarchist. Neither the style nor the content was deemed acceptable by my advisor.
Of course like any story, that’s just part of it, and another aspect became more obvious to me at the reunion as I listened to the college president talk about the reframing of IS.
To me, IS was a test, an ordeal. Yet the college is now reframing IS as ‘mentored undergraduate research’. If my advisor had been a mentor, instead of an adversary, which might have happened if the professor that led me to becoming a philosophy major hadn’t of been on sabbatical during my senior year, things might have been very different. If there had been courses on post-structuralism things might have been very different. But that’s not what happened.
Yet I still greatly value the education I received there and the friendships that were established there. My two older daughters have both received their undergraduate degrees. One has received a graduate degree and the other will soon be applying to a graduate program.
In this twenty-first century post-structuralist world, the nature of institutions, like those of high education and religion are being rethought. They are being challenged. Some of this comes from a materialism that values careers over a liberal education.
I’ve watched as the president and board of Sweet Briar College attempt to shut it down, and I hope those trying to save Sweet Briar are successful. I’ve been tempted to contribute to Saving Sweet Briar, but funds are tight. We still need to save for my youngest daughter’s college education, and, at least as far as I can remember, I never donated to my alma mater.
However, this year, my classmates who are very involved in the college urged everyone to donate. The percentage of alumni donating is an important statistic for those analyzing colleges. So, I made a small donation when I signed up for the reunion.
At the alumni association meeting, they talked about millennials being more involved in volunteer activities than their parents were at the same age, and I thought about fundraising for millennials. A popular idea is to ‘pay it forward’, and colleges seeking to attract young donors might find this an interesting approach. Instead of donating because of what you got out of college, donate to ‘pay it forward’ to future generations of incoming students. Pay it forward to help keep expenses down. Pay it forward to build up funds available for scholarships.
I doubt my youngest daughter will attend Wooster. She seems more interested in her mother’s alma mater. Yet if we were truly a pay it forward society, and money wasn’t so tight, instead of saving for my daughter’s education, I’d be paying it forward to my alma mater, to my wife’s alma mater, and, for that matter, to my elder daughter’s alma mater and to Sweet Briar.
It seems like the same could or should apply to churches, but that’s probably a different blog post.