Current educational methods need to be updated in order to remain useful to the students who will be graduating in the next few years, author and humanitarian scholar Cathy Davidson said in a lecture to a crowd of mostly faculty members and strategic planning committee members in Filene Auditorium on Thursday. Davidson’s presentation was the first in this year’s “Leading Voices in Higher Education” series, which is part of the College’s strategic planning initiative.
Davidson used her book, “Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work and Learn” as a starting point to explore how education must adapt to a digital age.
In four instances throughout history, communication technology has changed so drastically that it has fundamentally altered the way humans interact and transmit information, Davidson said. The first such instance was the invention of writing around 4,000 B.C., followed by the invention of movable type in 10th-century China, the advent of industrial steam-powered presses in the 18th century and the recent development and expansion of the Internet. As time goes on, the gaps between major changes in technology have gotten smaller, according to Davidson.
“One never keeps up, especially in a world of rapid change,” Davidson said in an email to The Dartmouth. “The best we can do, as teachers, students and co-learners, is learn how to learn, how to change, how to adapt, how to transform.”
Davidson began her lecture by asking audience members to use provided postcards and pencils to write down three things they considered essential for a typical Dartmouth graduate to have in order to “thrive in the 20th century.” The list of responses included “friends,” “adaptability” and “effective communication.”
Compulsory education evolved during the Industrial Age, leading to a set of teaching philosophies that Davidson referred to as the “industrial-educational complex.” Education became quantifiable, as “attention to task” and “standardization” became key components of teaching methods.
Davidson argued that this philosophy of asking students to focus on one thing stunts their ability to see the bigger picture.
She presented a 1999 study on selective attention in which subjects were shown a video of students wearing white and black shirts passing basketballs to each other. Viewers were asked to count how many times the students wearing white shirts passed the ball to each other. During the video, an undergraduate dressed in a gorilla suit walked through the group for nine seconds. The study found that over 60 percent of students were so focused on counting passes that they did not see the gorilla.
“If you focus on one specific task, the very definition of focus is that you shut out everything else,” she said. “In a crisis, you can easily miss another crisis.”
Davidson compared education to the process of a child learning to walk. In education, the measurement of how much one has learned has been “divorced” from the process of learning, she said.
“No one says, My kid got a 98 percent in walking.'” she said.
Quantifying achievement through grades is a shortcoming of today’s education system, Davidson said. Mount Holyoke College was the first institution to adopt letter grades in 1897 to evaluate its students. The second organization was the American Meat Packer’s Association, a fact that elicited laughter from the audience.
“There were lots of people who thought sirloin and chuck were far too complex to reduce to an A, B, C, D grade, and in fact there is an alternative system within the Meat Packer’s Association,” she said. “Meanwhile, virtually every institution in the United States thinks it’s a great idea for measuring achievement and starts adopting A, B, C, D grades.”
Multiple-choice tests, another standard component of an American education, are also problematic, Davidson said. In the Kansas Silent Reading Test, the first multiple choice test in the United States, children were asked to choose whether a dog, a cow, a dinosaur or a crocodile were farm animals. Children who lived on farms were equally likely to choose between “cow” and “dog,” according to Davidson.
“You’re not just teaching content,” she said. “You’re teaching a kind of content with a certain way of knowing the world.”
As opposed to the “industrial” model of education, which stresses task-oriented thinking and adherence to procedures, the digital age requires “multitasking attention,” “blended skills” and “collaboration,” according to Davidson.
In the process of speaking to both educational institutions and corporations, Davidson said she often hears from corporations that it takes a “minimum of one, most people say two years, to un-train students to think about success as something measured externally on a test.”
In academia, students who do not know the correct answers often feel that they must hide their weak areas, Davidson said. However, a workplace rewards those who are open about their shortcomings and are willing to ask for help.
“We don’t have metrics for that,” she said.
Differences in thinking processes often discouraged in industrial education should be valued and encouraged more, according to Davidson. She described a time in which she presented the gorilla experiment to a room of recently tenured professors.
“It is so strange to see a room full of your smartest colleagues and see the gorilla and people are counting as if nothing is happening,” she said. “In every room there is going to be a freaky girl who saw the gorilla while you were all counting basketballs.”
It is essential to incorporate the opinions and experiences of those who think unconventionally in order to avert major crises that the majority of people do not anticipate, such as the 2008 recession, Davidson said.
Audience members said they found the lecture interesting.
Norm Berman, a Dartmouth Medical School professor and a member of the Digital Dartmouth strategic planning committee, said the material discussed in Davidson’s lecture and book is very “pertinent to the College.”
“I don’t think schools have prepared students for the world,” Berman said. “I think they’re preparing themselves.”
Rick Hoffman, a former employee of the College, said his son-in-law, who is part of the strategic planning initiative, told him about the lecture.
“Dartmouth is so traditional,” Hoffman said. “But we have so many creative minds, we need a way to release all that creative energy.”
To the Editor:
Hazing practices at any school from any student organization are undoubtedly a problematic issue. Should school administrations, including Dartmouth College, do more to prevent and eliminate hazing on their campuses? Absolutely. However, students who place themselves in environments where membership status is dependant on debasing and devaluing human self-worth deserve no less than that which they receive. If students are needy enough to sacrifice their own dignity to attain access to an elite circle, let them fall by their own sword. The cycle repeats and repeats because students are too afraid to stand up to their “friends” and demand a higher quality of treatment. The problem is not fraternities, not sororities, not performance groups and not Dartmouth College. Simply put, if you are sick of swimming in a pool of feces, get up out of the pool and walk away.
**Max Hunter ’13*
It is the responsibility of any journalistic publication to ensure the accuracy of the information that appears on its pages. The Dartmouth takes journalistic integrity seriously. We do not censor our content to protect specific interests, nor do we print statements presented as fact without first verifying their truth to the best of our ability.
The recent column by Andrew Lohse (“Telling the Truth,” Jan. 25) leveled serious allegations against both a fraternity and the College administration regarding issues of hazing. Unfortunately, the College administration managed to procure a copy of the original draft from a professor whom Lohse had contacted for editorial input. Prior to its publication in The Dartmouth, an early draft of Lohse’s column was leaked to an independent blog operated by a Dartmouth alumnus. We would like to state unequivocally that no member of The Dartmouth Senior Staff was responsible for leaking drafts to this, or any other, third party. The unauthorized disclosure of content must be taken very seriously, and we will endeavor to ensure that leaks of this nature do not occur again as they are against the editorial policy of The Dartmouth.
The Opinion section of The Dartmouth provides a forum for members of the College community to discuss their views on issues relevant to this campus. Authors are given the opportunity to voice their perspectives on topics of their choice. The strongest arguments are those rooted in facts, however, and it is the responsibility of a newspaper to ensure, to the best of our ability, that these facts are true. To publish a column that levels such serious allegations against any institution without taking the time to corroborate such accusations is an affront to the principles of integrity widely cherished by responsible journalists. We did our utmost to confirm that The Dartmouth would not, in publishing this column, be giving voice to patently false claims against both a campus fraternity and the administration. Ultimately, a number of changes had to be made to the original draft after new information came to light.
It was not a desire to shelter Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity or the College administration, but rather our responsibility to corroborate facts that led to a delay of several days between our receipt of the column and its publication. No member of the Editorial Board intended to suppress the contents of Lohse’s column. Corroborating facts should not be mistaken for censorship. To treat the two as one in the same constitutes a gross misunderstanding of journalistic integrity.
The Dartmouth is an independent newspaper. It is not our place to advocate for any one of the various groups on this campus. Some members of The Dartmouth Editorial Board are actively involved in Greek houses in addition to numerous other campus organizations. This illustrates a simple fact about our small community issues that affect some sectors of Dartmouth ultimately affect all of us. The College as a whole would do well to sustain a serious discussion concerning hazing, and we hope the events of this past week have demonstrated that The Dartmouth’s only agenda is ensuring that this debate is conducted in good faith and rooted in fact.
The current presidential campaign and the Occupy movement have many Americans discussing the character and causes of grossly unequal distributions of income, wealth and political power. But most of the dialogue I hear suffers from a faulty understanding of “capitalism.”
Capitalism is not a structure or a system, but a logic capable of transforming the world and itself. Capitalist logic is not natural, but rather is a product of history, a human invention, not a set of natural laws discovered by men like Adam Smith and David Ricardo.
No society has ever organized all its human relationships and institutions according to the logic of capitalism. Therefore, there is a great variety of capitalist societies. Canada, Norway, France, Japan and the United States are all called “capitalist societies,” but they differ greatly in the extent to which capitalist logic organizes economic activity, social institutions and human relationships.
Capitalist logic is amoral. All attempts to extend the sway of capitalist logic provoke resistance from social groups who employ moral logics in their everyday lives. Thus, capitalists need control of governments to establish and maintain capitalist practices and to suppress those groups opposed to these practices.
Historically, groups committed to religious, paternalistic, ethnic/communal and socialist logics have formed the most important resistances to capitalism. Of course, each oppositional logic has its own history. Many predate the emergence of capitalism. Most importantly, unlike capitalist logic, they all construct human beings as social beings who have moral obligations to each other.
The first principle of capitalist logic is that anything real or imagined can be constructed as a commodity. Commodification precedes market exchange. Commodities include such things as clean water, air pollution, body parts, slaves, murder and weapons of mass destruction as well as human activities including labor, leisure and sexual intercourse. Capitalist logic does not permit the assignation of intrinsic moral values to commodities. Regulation or suppression of markets in the name of fairness, human rights, human health and environmental protection cannot spring from capitalist logic. Political society regulates capitalism by imposing a moral logic on the production and exchange of commodities that exploit, endanger or degrade human beings and the natural environment. Capitalist logic establishes the value of commodities in markets where sellers and buyers set prices, the money measure of that value. Buy low and sell high is the first rule in capitalist markets. As capitalists see it, commodities that find no buyers have no value; production and exchange of commodities are good if profits result, and bad when losses result. Here, the terms good and bad have no moral content.
Private ownership and profit maximization are also essential elements of capitalist logic. In capitalism, we own ourselves as property. Capitalism defines human beings as individuals motivated by self-interest who are essentially alienated from each other. For example, asking the question, “Am I profiting from this relationship?” turns love and affection into an investment and cost/benefit calculation that relies on capitalist logic for its answer.
In capitalism, true liberty means full ownership of ourselves. Yet in capitalist societies most people must sell parts of their lives by the hour, the day, the week, the month, etc. These transactions make those who sell their labor power even if it is enriched “human capital” less free than those who do not have to sell parts of their lifetime to live. Since the rich possess more liberty than most people, they evoke a variety of responses among the non-rich including anger, resentment, envy, adulation and attempts (through unwise borrowing) at emulation.
Business history is primarily the history of changes in capitalism itself that stem from the imaginative use of capitalist logic. The invention and sale of new kinds of financial commodities in the past, securities like bonds and stocks, and most recently derivatives, collateralized mortgage debt and credit swap defaults creates opportunity and instability. Great financial crises occur when understanding of the implications recently invented financial commodities lags far behind the rapid growth of markets for these commodities. This is what happened in the 1830s, 1930s and since 2007.
Crises in capitalist markets and the insecurity, unemployment and poverty they create always promote resistance to capitalism. In crises, a Left committed to socialist and progressive logics that demands fairness forms. At the same time, a Right committed to the logic of fundamentalist religions and/or ethnic communalism will insist on restoration of “traditional” values. Understanding the amoral logic of today’s global capitalists, and moral logics of their current opponents in the Occupy movements and among social and religious conservatives helps to clarify what’s really at stake in the current political campaigns.
**Ronald Edsforth is a history professor.*
The Monroe Doctrine, often perceived as a founding policy of American diplomacy, influenced not only international relations but also internal domestic politics throughout the 19th century, complicating America’s relationship with the notion of “empire,” Oxford University history professor Jay Sexton said to a crowd of students and professors on Thursday in Carson. An ongoing struggle against the British Empire, the centralization of the union and American imperial expansion which included “the continental empire and the way that American power was projected informally outside the nation’s borders” defined America during the 1800s, Sexton said. The Monroe Doctrine, “an elastic, elusive and shape-shifting creature,” can be used as a vehicle for exploring the ways in which American statecraft was a product of internal pressure to keep the nation unified in addition to external processes, he said. “It’s misleading to refer to [the Doctrine] in the singular,” as conflicting pro-slavery, anti-slavery, expansionist and anti-expansionist movements interpreted it in different ways, according to Sexton.
“It was a symbol that rival groups sought to call their own,” he said. The Monroe Doctrine is best described as a national security policy that grew out of American anxiety, rather than as strong imperial dogma, Sexton said. “We tend to think about the Monroe Doctrine in relation to American expansion and the rising American empire, but it actually grew out of anxiety of foreign threats,” he said. When former President James Monroe initially laid out the policy of the Doctrine in the 1823 State of the Union Address, he was concerned about the insecurity of the union and was focused on solving domestic issues before foreign relations, according to Sexton. “The government feared that the presence of European monarchies in South America would inflame domestic conflict,” he said. The U.S. was relatively weak compared to the European powers that dominated international affairs at the time and was internally vulnerable, according to Sexton. A merging of the two weaknesses was the American government’s “greatest single fear,” he said. The U.S. only attempted to address these combined issues in a proposed alliance with Britain during the Civil War. The implementation of the Doctrine created a source of contention domestically and was “negatively framed,” Sexton said. Instead of prescribing American foreign policy, the Doctrine focused on prohibiting European intervention. The Doctrine was more frequently used as a political tool between rivals during elections rather than being used as a platform for international relations, he said.
“Domestic politicking” of the Doctrine was extensive as politicians attempted to prove their commitment to national security through campaign strategies like pamphlets publicizing their support for the Doctrine, according to Sexton.
“It drew just as much from the internal dynamics of the Union as from some grand notion of global politics,” he said.
Despite perceived ideological differences, Britain and the U.S. pursued similar policies in Latin America, and their relationship was critical to American growth, he said.
For example, the U.S. used Britain’s Suez Policy in Egypt as a template for its relations with Cuba and Panama. Latin America also played an important role in the development of the Doctrine, as it often appealed to the U.S. for aid when the Doctrine was violated, he said. The global recognition of the Doctrine increased significantly in the late 19th century, and “foreign critics began condemning the U.S. for not living up to the true Monroe Doctrine,” Sexton said.
Recently, former presidential candidate and governor Rick Perry, R-Texas, referred to the Doctrine in a similar attempt to appeal to American voters, according to Sexton. In a speech outlining his plans for foreign policy, he called for a 21st-century version of the Monroe Doctrine,
Chris Whitehead ’12, who is reading Sexton’s book in one of his classes, said he was previously unaware of the wide-ranging effects of the Monroe Doctrine.
“It is by definition an international policy, but what is interesting is the level to which it was used domestically as a sort of way of earning domestic credibility in a contest of who could take a harder line on national security,” Whitehead said. History professor Leslie Butler said she was impressed by Sexton’s ability to keep the “big picture” in view even when he was discussing specific incidents. “I think it’s important how well he holds in tension the different registers on which the Monroe Doctrine was operating the postcolonial, the national and the imperial,” Butler said in an email to The Dartmouth. The lecture, “Empire and Nation in 19th Century America: Reconsidering the Monroe Doctrine,” was sponsored by the Dickey Center for International Understanding and the history department.
The Dartmouth United Way Steering Committee has set a new record following its most recent fundraising campaign for Upper Valley-based Granite United Way, according to Diana Lawrence, co-chair of the steering committee. The campaign, which ran from November to January, received $282,000 from 600 donors, both of which constitute record numbers.
“It’s historic,” said Lawrence. “It’s never been this high.”
Lawrence attributed the campaign’s success to the “match program,” which ran from Nov. 15 to Dec. 15. During that time, all donations were matched in full by a group of anonymous donors.
“The donors found that really motivating,” she said. “I think they like the idea of seeing their gift grow and generating even more money.”
Granite United Way has not yet determined the recipient of the funds raised by the steering community, according to Lawrence, who declined to comment on potential partner agencies or the status of any applications.
Granite United Way operates in 14 towns in New Hampshire and over 30 towns in Vermont, according to Lawrence. The organization serves 500,000 individuals in over 40 percent of the two states’ total geographic territory.
The Dartmouth Steering Committee’s accomplishment is beneficial to all Dartmouth-based charities, according to Kurt Nelson, who is the assistant chaplain for the Tucker Center and works with local philanthropic organization Cover Home Repair.
“United Way does great things with a lot of local agencies,” he said. “We’d definitely like to network with them in the future.
United Way is a national organization with various self-directing branches across the country, Lawrence said. Each branch fundraises within a local community to meet identified needs, she said. When the fundraising campaign ends, an allocations panel composed of local residents votes on which charitable organizations working within the community receive the money, she said. The Dartmouth steering committee is the College’s fundraising arm for Granite United Way.
“That’s why I work for United Way,” Lawrence said. “Because the local branches are so self-determining, I think it keeps overheads down and provides a really efficient way to get funds to where they’re most needed in the community.”
Although anyone can volunteer to sit on an allocations committee for Granite United Way, the national United Way provides “airtight” guidelines on the distribution of funds, according to Lawrence.
The United Way works in the areas of education, income stability and health, according to the organization’s website.
Granite United Way specifically identifies physical and mental health and wellness, education and lifelong learning, housing and self-sufficiency as “the areas of critical need,” Lawrence said. Due to the damage inflicted to homes by Hurricane Irene in the Upper Valley, Granite United Way has added home repair as a temporary critical area, she said.
Potential partner agencies whose scope falls within one of the critical areas must submit requests for funding, according to Lawrence.
Lawrence said she gained “immense respect” for the “rigor” of the United Way’s formal allocations progress, which emphasizes accountability and streamlined distribution.
“It ensures money raised in the community gets returned to the community in the most efficient way possible,” she said.
Deputy Director of Athletics Robert Ceplikas, Director of Administrative Operations for the Dartmouth Institute Cynthia Crutchfield and Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Steve Kadish co-chaired the steering committee. Ceplikas and Crutchfield could not be reached for comment by press time. Judith Durell, a steering committee coordinator, declined requests for comment.
Over 70 percent of provosts at colleges and universities nationwide have indicated that they believe the quality of higher education is declining, even if the quality of their own institutions is stationary, according to a survey released by Inside Higher Education. Provosts noted the unwillingness of institutions to change and the prevalence of cheating and grade inflation as problems affecting institutional quality, according to the study. Inside Higher Ed also concluded that provosts should focus on improving completion rates, particularly at community colleges. In addition, the majority of college and university provosts feel that faculty unions do not prove beneficial to campus life, and many reported that they think higher education fails to adequately prepare students to be good citizens, Inside Higher Ed reported.
A record number of college freshmen 71 percent have liberal views on same-sex marriage, according to a new study conducted by the University of California, Los Angeles, The Chronicle of Higher Education reported Thursday. The figure has increased steadily since similar data was first collected in 1997, when approximately half of freshmen surveyed had a favorable view of same-sex marriage. However, the statistic released by the study does not indicate a new record of “liberals,” with only 28 percent of those surveyed identifying as liberals, lead author John Pryor ’84, director of the Cooperate Institutional Research Program, told The Chronicle. The record number of those in favor of same-sex marriage does not indicate increased activism, as the study found that only 10 percent of survey respondents volunteered in political campaigns last year. This figure has risen as high as 15 percent since data on the subject was first collected, according to The Chronicle.
The California State University System Board of Trustees approved a new policy on Wednesday that will cap the amount of state funding colleges are permitted to use for the compensation of new presidents at 10 percent more than their predecessors’ salaries, Inside Higher Ed reported. The Board’s decision will overturn a policy created last July that authorized a 30 percent increase in new college president salaries. The July compensation decision received criticism from faculty, students and lawmakers over the last six months after the Board increased the annual salary of the incoming president of San Diego State University from $300,000 to $400,000, according to Inside Higher Ed. Supporters of the original salary hike argue that the new policy may have adverse affects on the system’s ability to remain competitive with colleges across the country in the presidential hiring process, Inside Higher Ed reported.