I am a bit behind in posting to this blog. I need to take some of my own advice and SLOW DOWN to enjoy life!
Some time ago, I asked my students to respond to a question included below. Some responses were really worth sharing. I will be posting these and hope that they inspire others to comment and perhaps compose their own answer to the question.
The first response is by Rachel Ruisard, a first year student at Moravian College.
Question: In your opinion, what should be the role of Higher Education in informing students and perhaps the general public about the issues confronting the planet and in helping to develop and promote solutions to many of these great challenges?
Higher Education holds a considerable and respected place in society; the mere fact that it contains the word “higher” suggests a superior intellectual plane of learning. Universities and colleges most often house some of the greatest minds of our time, and this plethora of well-educated and experienced individuals collectively take on a responsibility to our society of educating the future generations and often the public as well. The attendees of such establishments of higher education are also given a responsibility. No longer are these students the generation of youths who were proclaimed to be the future leaders; they are now on the threshold of claiming their place in society as the new generation of young adults. They will become the educators of society, and it is vital that they take with them lessons that will create hope for the future of our world.
As Peter Wood described in his article, “From Diversity to Sustainability: How Campus Ideology Is Born,” ideologies hold great power when focused upon and by colleges and universities. This new generation of young adults catches hold of various new ways of thinking that are promoted by higher education. The rise of sustainability among college campuses has currently drawn public attention to this new movement of “second-wave environmentalism” (Wood). The fact that this ideology has gained the support of 800 colleges and universities as members of The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education goes to prove that sustainability has shifted the attention of our nation to the significance of the natural world and our place in it. Sustainability is now the new “thing” and higher education must take this opportunity to broaden students' and society's mentality that this ideology is more than just a fad, it is a necessary change.
The presence of esteemed professors and scientists-in-residence on campuses means that the researching capabilities of higher education are immense. Recognition can be gained by faculty members that pursue research and promote environmentalism among students and elsewhere. If an outpouring of supported research should occur, awareness of the current issues facing our planet would become more widespread. Once the educators have embraced their role in advocating sustainability, they must turn and focus their gazes upon the classroom, their students and the goal at hand. These students are about to assume the burden of adulthood and make decisions for our planet; it is necessary to educate them about the significance of sustainability and the interconnectedness of our world.
College and university faculty are often considered the mentors of their students. This is the time when professors and students can be on friendlier terms, when the wall of separation experienced through the past twelve years of education can finally be removed. Many of the most important lessons learned throughout post-secondary education comes from the conversations and intellectual discussions between student and teacher. This is an opportunity for the professor to influence in an positive way; the experience of a college professor will always grant wisdom.
In the past, a standard classroom teaching is the understanding that “knowledge is power.” While this certainly has encouraged the accumulation of knowledge, it also encourage the advancement of one's self-interest. What higher education must now detail to these students, described by Jeremy Rifkin in his article, “Empathetic Education: The Transformation of Learning in an Interconnected World,” is that “intelligence...is not something one inherits or a resource one accumulates, but, rather, an experience that is shared among people.” This shift of learning from individual to collaborative develops each student's capability for empathetic expression and fosters the sharing of not just information but ideas and viewpoints. Through the promotion of the interconnectedness of knowledge, student will enter society with an understanding of our world's dilemma and its solutions and be open to sharing this knowledge with others around them.