Thursday, August 16, 2018
I've gathered some of my earlier "Here We Are" posts into two free ebooks. "Notes on the Online Learning Revolution" collects posts related to the growth of online learning in higher education. "Lessons Learned" collects responses to readings far and wide. Visit this link to read or download them.
Saturday, August 11, 2018
In 2000, Thomas Friedman published an expanded paperback edition of his 1998 book, The Lexus and the Olive Tree, which looked at the ways in which globalization was replacing the Cold War as the dominant organizing principal of international politics, economics, and culture. Writing almost two decades ago, Friedman described a new world order. “Globalization,” he wrote, “is not just some economic fad, and it is not just a passing trend. It is an international system—the dominant international system that replaced the Cold War system after the fall of the Berlin Wall” (p. 7). Friedman defined “globalization” this way:
“. . . it is the inexorable integration of markets, nation-states and technologies to a degree never witnessed before—in a way that is enabling individuals, corporations and nation-states to reach around the world farther, faster, deeper and cheaper than ever before, and in a way that is enabling the world to reach into individuals, corporations and nation-states farther, faster, deeper, cheaper than ever before” (p. 9).
Globalization is different from the old Cold War era in several ways. Friedman notes that, while the most frequent question in the Cold War era was “Whose side are you on?” the most frequently asked question in the global world is, “To what extent are you connected to everyone?” (p. 10) Innovation replaces tradition. The present/future replace the past.
Nothing matters so much as what will come next, and what will come next can only arrive if what is here now gets overturned” (p. 11).
Nothing matters so much as what will come next, and what will come next can only arrive if what is here now gets overturned” (p. 11).
Notably, Friedman paraphrases German political theorist Carl Schmitt, noting that “the Cold War was a war of ‘friends’ and ‘enemies.’ The globalization world, by contrast tends to turn all friends and enemies into ‘competitors’” (p. 12).
This last bit attracted my attention. Two decades ago, Tom Friedman had noted this idea—that national enemies would be replaced by global competitors. Now, we are hearing the same language being used by Donald Trump to describe why he turned away from our NATO allies and turned toward Russia. In essence, he is saying that we have no allies, only competitors. It is what Trump means when he says “America first.”
However, what Trump and his collaborators don’t take into consideration is that we are also living now in a globalized economy (and, more importantly, a global society). In the Cold War, influence and security were based on the power of the nation state. In this new age, however, the power of nation states has been replaced by the power of association. Friedman argues that the new society is powered by three “balances.” They are:
· The traditional balance of power between nation states.
· The balance between nation states and global markets.
· The balance between individuals and nation states.
As Friedman notes, the last of these balances is key:
“Because globalization has brought down many of the walls that limited the movement and reach of people, and because it has simultaneously wired the world into networks, it gives more power to individuals to influence both markets and nation-states than at any time in history” (p. 14).
In the two decades since Friedman wrote these words, that vision has become the new reality for many of us. This new environment is a special challenge to industrial workers whose efforts drove the Industrial Revolution and who responded to Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan. The Industrial Revolution stimulated several generations of urbanization and European immigration—Germans, Irish, Italians, and others—to provide the manpower that drove the United States to become the world’s greatest industrial power. They have been the backbone of America’s industry for well over a century. Today, however, they are feeling forgotten as industry responds to the new balances of globalization. Today’s manufacturing companies—many of them international in scope these days—must balance the prospect of global markets with the cost benefits of international supply chains. The public policy goal must be to ensure that our workers—regardless of when and how their families came here—are able to contribute the new global balance and benefit from it.
Trump and his Republican collaborators use immigration as a rallying cry. However, the problem is not that workers are losing jobs to new immigrants. It is that they are losing jobs to international supply chains. The real policy challenge is to strengthen the ability of U.S. companies and their workers to participate in this new environment by encouraging international collaborations that open new markets for American-made goods and to invest in innovations that give American companies and workers a competitive advantage in an ever-changing market driven by technological innovation.
In an That is just one of several national initiatives that are needed to bring us into a new balance as Americans. We also need a political and social commitment to community redevelopment, support for start-up companies, and encouragement of innovation—all elements of revitalization of work—and new opportunity for the workforce—in this new environment. I write this on the first anniversary of the neo-nazi, white supremacist attacks in Charlottesville, VA. I hope that, in the coming months, we will hear more about positive steps we can take together across political and social divides to build viable opportunities for American workers and communities. We cannot re-live the past. We need to work together to create the future.about Friedman’s most recent book, Thank You for Being Late, I noted Friedman assertion that the situation called for a national commitment to lifelong education.
Reference:Friedman, Thomas. The Lexus and the Olive Tree. New York: Anchor Books, 2000.
Thursday, July 12, 2018
In New Seeds of Contemplation, Thomas Merton wrote about solitude and community in a way that seems especially relevant given our current political climate:
“There is actually no more dangerous solitude than that of the man who is lost in a crowd, who does not know he is alone and who does not function as a person in a community. . . Where men live huddled together without true communication, there seems to be greater sharing, and a more genuine communication. But this is not communication, only immersion in the general meaninglessness of countless slogans and cliches repeated over and over again so that in the end one listens without hearing and responds without thinking. The constant din of empty words and machine noises, the endless booming of loudspeakers end by making true communication and true communion almost impossible. Each individual in the mass is insulated by thick layers of insensibility. He doesn’t care, he doesn’t hear, he doesn’t think.”
We need to awaken from our “dangerous solitude” of party loyalty and nationalism and rediscover our sense of community—to rediscover what it means to be a citizen in a diverse democracy and what it means to be a democratic nation in a world beset by the storm of global change. The time is now.
Wednesday, July 11, 2018
Many Americans today are worried about our country. In recent years, there has been a strong turn toward nationalism, a tendency that runs counter to the internationalism that has increasingly marked much of American public policy—and, more recently, the national economy—since World War II. A backward-looking nationalism has been a counter-current in our political life for some time, dating back to the Tea Party Republicans and the anti-Obama “birther” movement. However, it has blossomed since the election of Donald Trump. We can see it in the trade wars that he has started, in his eagerness to put distance between the U.S. and its long-time economic, cultural, and military allies, and in his treatment of immigrant families and minority citizens (witness the lack of support for rebuilding Puerto Rico).
Internationally, we also have multiple examples of right-wing nationalists being elected in Europe; increasing backlash over refugees migrating to Europe from the Middle East and Africa; England’s withdrawal from the European Union; and so forth. One political driver both in the U.S. and Europe is that a large segment of the workforce finds (1) that their skills are no longer in need and (2) that they are unprepared to develop the skills needed for emerging industries. All these things combine to create a very broad, deep culture shock for a generation of working people, both here in the U.S. and around the world.
In his 2016 book, Thank You for Being Late, Tom Friedman writes that we are living in an era of accelerations on several levels and that most people are not able to change at the same rate as the changes in technologies, work environment, and natural environment that mark this new era. It is one reason why we are experiencing the current nationalistic backlash—a kind of nostalgia for a time that is not long past but that is nevertheless totally out of reach. The industries and mines that employed many Americans are not likely to be rebuilt in this new era. The challenge is to create a new social and economic environment in which American workers can thrive. We can’t “Make America Great Again” by looking backward. What we must do is “Make America New Again” by looking forward. We do this not by rejuvenating old industries, but by preparing ourselves and our communities to succeed in the new environment. Most importantly, we cannot do this by continuing the ideological division that has overtaken American politics; instead, we must, as a community, define the problem and build consensus on how to solve it.
I emphasize community because one of the symptoms of the current malaise is the disruption of our sense of community. We have reverted to a kind of economic and social tribalism that has made it very difficult to find common ground. I see that as a symptom of our “accelerations” problem. There is a model of human development—the expanding communities model—that offers both an illustration of the problem and a path toward solution. The model says that, as we grow as individuals, our sense of belonging to a community expands. As toddlers, our public identity is our immediate family. As we get older and enter school, we increasingly see our family as part of our private identity and publicly identify ourselves as members of a broader community that may include neighbors, more distant relatives, school mates, etc. Eventually, those relationships become integrated into our private identity, while our public identity expands to include the local community. We identify with our town and, later, with our state and country. As we age, we join professional communities, avocational communities, etc. With each expansion, we take on a new public identity and privatize the previous identities.
As globalization creates the prospect of a new kind of public identity—that of global citizen, perhaps—we find it difficult to maintain our older identity as citizens of a country or state or region. Some of us, feeling left behind by this new culture, hold on to our older identities, which are no longer as widely shared. You can see the result in our national political identities. In the two generations since the end of World War II, Americans have tended to see themselves as one culture. Democrats and Republicans have had major differences, but they shared a common commitment to a national cultural vision. We were, essentially, a centrist nation, that survived even the culture wars of the Sixties. Today, Democrats and Republicans have trouble finding common ground on almost any topic, but we must not allow that to make us see members of other communities as enemies. Republicans and Democrats are Americans first. So are Social Democrats. So are Tea Party members. And, by extension, America itself is now part of a global community of democracies.
The challenge for us is to find a new common ground that will allow us to solve the problems of some of us—those workers who are being left behind, for instance—to the benefit of all of us. We must acknowledge that it is very unlikely that the old industries—coal, for instance—on which many small communities were built will ever reprise. This is not just the problem of coal miners. It is critical both to the individual workers, to the communities that they call home, and to our broader community. The solution lies in two things: (1) preparing workers to develop new, more employable skills, and (2) preparing the communities themselves to support new industries that need those skills. This requires a commitment to lifelong learning in order to arm workers with the new skills they will need. That commitment must include a commitment by the community to the employers to help in the continuous education of local workers as needs evolve.
A New Mandate for Public Education
In the 19th century, education at all levels was revolutionized as well to help communities adjust to the accelerating changes brought about by the Industrial Revolution. Teacher education colleges—normal schools—were established in all states to prepare teachers so that the children of immigrants could learn to become American citizens. Public schools increased the expectation that students would complete 12 years before they moved into the workforce or on for more education. Universities established research as a core mission and, to ensure future generations of professionals for the industrial economy, created new disciplines, from Engineering to Business to a range of social sciences, such as Social Psychology. The national Agricultural Extension Service model was created to help farmers be more productive so that the country could support simultaneous immigration and urbanization.
The global information revolution also needs new kinds of educational support. Some examples:
· There is already a movement toward a K-14 curriculum, which will guarantee that young people graduate with the skills needed for their first jobs. This approach to schooling would help struggling old-industry workers and their communities develop their ability to compete for jobs in the new economy. A K-14 model would stimulate fresh innovation and collaboration between public schools and higher education, from re-thinking the curriculum to encouraging sharing of open educational resources to dual enrollment. It would also open the door to new kinds of collaboration between educational institutions and local employers.
· At the same time, colleges and universities must recognize that students must be prepared to function effectively in the new international economy. Students need the experience of working with peers from other cultures. This might take the form of a more universal study abroad program or by partnering with international institutions to use online technology to share courses, giving students at all participating institutions experience with students from other cultures. The Worldwide University Network is an example of this at the graduate/research level.
· We are also seeing the development of new programs of study and research foci in disciplines related to STEM—Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics. These must begin in the public schools and carry students through their college degrees.
· Finally, we need to create an Information Revolution counterpart to the Agricultural Extension Service to help workers and communities become more competitive in the new economy. This might include training programs for recent high school graduates to prepare them for entry level jobs in technical fields, as well as undergraduate specializations in STEM majors. Beyond that, however, the “Information Extension Service” must work closely with communities to create lifelong learning options that will help prepare citizens for new jobs, while helping to attract new employers to the community. In addition, institutions must become prepared to work with employers to help educate current and prospective employees adapt to workplace innovation—something that will be critical to keeping new employers in a community. At Penn State, the Pennsylvania Technical Assistance Program (PennTAP) has a long history of helping organizations innovate in technical areas. It may serve as a model for an Information Innovation Extension Service.
These innovations will cost taxpayers money, but we need to see that as an investment in our common good. It is time for America to find a new common vision.
Wednesday, June 20, 2018
Like many Americans, I have spent much of the past 18 months trying to understand what is happening in the United States since the reins of government were turned over to Donald Trump and his collaborators in the Republican Party. We have gone from laughing at their gaffes, staring wide-eyed at their lies (even as it became clear that the lies were intentional and not simply the products of ignorance or naivete), and bowing our heads in anger and shame at their treatment of others, whether they be fellow citizens suffering in the wake of Puerto Rico’s hurricanes or Hispanic families seeking refuge from turmoil in their homelands. This week’s “no tolerance” policy that separates migrant families, putting thousands of children into make-shift concentration camps, has marked a new low, not just for Trump and his gang, but for our country as a whole. As we sink further into the mire of racial hate and economic war, we need to turn away from the spectacle and look for solutions. We need to ask what it will take for our country to regain its honor.
While one Gallup Poll reported this week that Trump’s popularity rose to 45%--on a par with other presidents at this point in their first administration—CNN’s new poll showed him at 39%, down from 41% in May. That suggests (although we have no idea what the current humanitarian crisis over separating children from migrant parents may do) that Trump’s popularity with the base population that elected him is holding fast. Looking ahead, it is almost impossible to imagine how to respond to Trump without knowing more about the underlying issues that drive his core support and what is needed to lead us to the changes that, very obviously, are needed.
Thomas Friedman’s 2016 book, Thank You for Being Late, explores some dimensions of the problems that we don’t hear about on the nightly news. Friedman describes two kinds of change: technological and social. Technological change evolves rapidly, doubling its power and reach every few years. Imagine, for instance, what has happened technologically in the two decades since the first web browser was launched in 1995 and compare that innovation with today’s cloud computing! It is difficult, Friedman notes, to capture “the transformational nature of what has been created.” The result, he says, is “a tremendous release of energy into the hands of human beings to compete, design, think, imagine, connect, and collaborate with anyone anywhere” (p. 83). This same force has greatly multiplied the power of one person to change society, but it is also amplifying what Friedman calls “the power of many.” “Human beings,” he reports, “as a collective are not just a part of nature; they have become a force of nature—a force that is disturbing and changing the climate and our planet’s ecosystems at a space and scope never before seen in human history” (p. 87). However, Friedman also notes that social change takes place at a much slower pace than technological change. At some point, the speed of technological change outpaces our ability to adapt to it, creating social disruption and leaving some people behind as others race to catch up.
It forces the question: Where do people whose training and experience are with the technology and industrial models of the older technology fit into this new world? That is a question that is critical for people who work in mining and traditional industrial communities around the nation. Most of these people are descended from people who came to the United States from northern Europe in the 19th and early 20th century. They have been told by political opportunists that new immigrants challenge their right to good jobs. However, the real problem is that those jobs are no longer available to anyone. Change has created a new working environment for everyone.
Friedman acknowledges that gap between the pace of technological change and social change is a cause of serious concern and anxiety, especially in the political realm. “It is time,” he concludes, “to redouble our efforts to close that anxiety gap with imagination and innovation and not scare tactics and simplistic solutions that will not work” (p. 202).
Part of the solution is a societal commitment to lifelong education that will help all members of society to keep pace with technological change so that they can continue to thrive in a rapidly evolving environment. We need to acknowledge that, even with a commitment to universal K-14 education, this only prepares students to find their skills. At the same time, we need to acknowledge that, as Friedman notes, an undergraduate degree simply prepares a grad for his/her first job. Education must become a lifelong resource to help people adjust their careers to changing circumstances and then to an active role in the community after retirement.
Beyond that, Friedman argues that, in order to keep pace with technology-related change, we need to innovate “in everything other than technology.” He writes:
“It is reimagining and redesigning your society’s workplace, politics, geopolitics, ethics, and community—in ways that will enable more citizens on more days in more ways to keep pace with how these accelerations are reshaping their lives and generate more stability as we shoot through these rapids” (p. 199).
At the end of the day, the issue is not returning to a long-lost past but learning to innovate as individuals and communities to create a new social environment that can prosper in a world in which humans—and their technology—are a force of nature.
Thursday, May 10, 2018
I just finished reading The Memory of Old Jack, Wendell Berry’s 1974 novel that traces the experiences of an old farmer in Port William, Kentucky, the site of many Berry novels about life in an agrarian community. At the end, he has this to say about how farming communities have changed over the past century:
Wheeler has been thinking about them and about the troubles that probably lie ahead of them: an increasing scarcity of labor as more and more of the country people move to the cities; the consequent necessity for further mechanization of the farms; the consequent need of the farmers for more land and more capital in order to survive; the consequent further departure of the labor force from the country; the increasing difficulty of preserving an agricultural economy favorable to small farmers as political power flows from the country to the cities. (p. 163)
Much has happened since Berry published this in 1974, nearly half a century ago. Many of the consequences that he identified have come to fruition as the Industrial Revolution has given way to the Information Revolution and the growth of a global information society. In 2014, Berry observed this in an essay called “Our Deserted Country”:
By now nearly all of the land-using population have left their farms and home places to be industrially or professionally employed, or unemployed, and to be entirely dependent on the ways and the products of industrialism. Or they have remained, as “farmers,” to pilot enormous machines over thousands of acres continuously in annual row crops such as soybeans and corn. (Our Only World, p. 111)
It is a fact of life in the Information Society that we are now globally connected. One consequence has been to make more tenuous our ties to truly local communities. Yes, those fields of soybeans are meant to be sold in great numbers to China and elsewhere around the world. Yes, our industries require workers who live in or near our industrial cities. In the process, though, we have lost that sense of identity—our intimate familiarity—with our immediate surroundings. Even those of us whose forebears were coal miners and mill workers—who have not had the multi-generational familial relationship to the land that Berry cherishes—are increasingly aware of the problem. It is one reason why we flock to weekly farmers’ markets and to “farm to table” restaurants.
In Our Only World, Berry notes that “if the land and the people are ever to be saved, they will be saved by local people enacting together a proper respect for themselves and their places. They can do this only in ways that are neighborly, convivial, and generous, but also and in the smallest details, practical and economic.” (p.63) He goes on to lay out a dozen “suggestions” for how to achieve this:
1. Reject the idea that “the ultimate reality is political” and, thus, that solutions must be political.
2. Avoid “standardized industrial solutions” unless they are based in an understanding of the uniqueness of every place.
3. Replace ideals of competitition, consumption, globalism, corporate profitability, mechanical efficiency, technological change, and upward mobility with reverence, humility, affection, familiarity, neighborliness, corporation, thrift, appropriateness, and local loyalty.
4. Understand that the solution to big problems may best be found in individual families, and local communities.
5. Understand the importance of subsistence economies.
6. Rethink the structure and cost of higher education, so that debt does not take young people away from their communities.
7. Ensure that local communities know how much of the land is locally owned and available for local needs and uses.
8. Understand and act on the local need for local products.
9. Have local conversations about how best to meet local needs.
10. Understand the implications of “labor-saving” technologies that, in fact are “people- replacing” technologies. Ensure that land-using economies are led by skilled and careful workers.
11. Make sure that local people who do the actual work are supported.
12. Confront social prejudice against people who work the land.
Berry makes important points about how to sustain agrarian communities. At the same time, however, I would argue that it is important to keep in mind that we have, indeed, entered a new era. While family farms are one key to strengthening small, rural communities, we need to acknowledge that jobs in coal mining and factories on which many small communities were built are not coming back. Most communities need to attract new jobs. In many cases, the supply chains for these jobs will be tied to the new global, multi-cultural society that has developed around information society. To succeed, we need to educate our young people for the work of the future so that they can create a new sense of community—one that recognizes the importance of local culture in a context that the economy will support in the future. The challenge is to build true and sustainable local cultures that also embrace and maintain bridges to the emerging global culture and economy. It is a challenge for our schools and for local and state governments and for individual citizens as we live our daily lives.
Monday, April 30, 2018
Earlier this spring Inside Higher Education reported that the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point was planning to close19 degree programs in 13 undergraduate majors, including traditional liberal arts majors like English, history, and all three foreign languages that it currently offers. The decision was tied to a need to better position the campus to attract new students. As the proposed restructuring document, Re-Imagining Our Curriculum for the Future, noted, “UW-Stevens Point has reached a moment in which the elimination of under-enrolled majors is the only realistic way to repair our budget and simultaneously fund the creation and expansion of programs with higher student demand.”
The closing of liberal arts majors is a very important development. It affects many faculty positions at the campus and the campus’s ability to attract high school graduates into its baccalaureate programs. The change also has implications for general education—what the Stevens Point calls its “core liberal arts curriculum.” The report notes:
We must resist the false choice between providing a broad, well-rounded education or narrow professional and vocational pathways. As one strategy, we will reimagine traditional liberal arts majors for students seeking applied learning to improve their career potential. Second, we will strengthen our core liberal arts curriculum. Preparing students for engaged citizenship, ensuring that they graduate as broadly educated and well-rounded lifelong learners, and equipping them with the kinds of professional skills that we know are essential for career success in any field—these are things we owe to all students regardless of major.
Stevens Point is not alone in wanting to re-envision its general education program. At Cornell University, a committee has worked for two years to develop a plan to re-invigorate the 15-year old general education program of its College of Arts and Sciences. Their final report notes that “the defining experience of the college’s liberal arts program is the opportunity to explore the breadth of our collective knowledge to inform, contextualize, and enhance studies beyond that final specialization.” It goes on to recommend replacing the standard “breadth and depth” distribution model with a more simplified approach, in which all students would be required to take one course from each of ten categories:
Arts and Literature
Ethics and the Mind
Science of Society
Statistics and Data Science
Symbolic and Mathematical Reasoning
In addition, students would take a first-year writing program and a “community-engaged learning” course, which might fall within with new Human Difference and Global Citizenship categories. College Dean Gretchen Ritter, who charged the committee back in 2016, noted that “ . . . the importance of understanding human difference and exploring what it means to be a global citizen—as well as how data science integrates with a variety of disciplines—widens the breadth and complements our core disciplines.”
At Reed College, student protest has led to reconsideration of Humanities 110, a foundational, team-taught humanities course required of all first-year students. A student protest group, “Reedies Against Racism,” argued that the course was too focused on white, male, European perspectives. The revised version will include four modules based on different historical eras and geographic locations, allowing faculty to address a range of humanistic questions through events and literature of different cultures, times, and places.
My alma mater, Penn State University, will this summer and fall implement a new six-credit “integrative studies” requirement for its general education program. As the university’s website notes, “The General Education curriculum will enable students to acquire skills, knowledge, and experiences for living in interconnected contexts, so they can contribute to making life better for others, themselves, and the larger world.” More than 40 “inter-domain” courses in diverse colleges have been approved to meet this requirement thus far. Colleges may also offer “linked” courses that meet the standard.
Defining the Purpose of General Education
These examples suggest that there is more behind the current interest in general education than budgetary constraints or wanting to appeal to a new generation of students. It is perhaps better seen as part of a broader change as higher education adapts to new dimensions of the society it serves. In The Meaning of General Education (Teachers College Press, 1988), I surveyed the evolution of general education from the early days of the Industrial Revolution through the first three quarters of the twentieth century, drawing on the ideas of Alexander Meikeljohn, Robert Maynard Hutchins, John Dewey, and others, as well as curricular innovations at Yale University, the University Wisconsin, Columbia University, Bennington College, Sarah Lawrence, the University of Minnesota, and Harvard University. The result was the following description of a guiding vision for general education:
General education is a comprehensive, self-consciously developed and maintained program that develops in individual students the attitude of inquiry; the skills of problem-solving; the individual and community values associated with a democratic society; and the knowledge needed to apply these attributes, skills, and values so that the students may maintain the learning process over a lifetime and function as self-fulfilled individuals and as full participants in a society committee to change through democratic processes. As such, it is marked by its comprehensive scope, by its emphasis on specific and real problems and issues of immediate concern to students and society, by its concern with the needs of the future, and by the application of democratic principles in the methods and procedures of education as well as the goals of education. (p. 5)
As we look ahead, it is worth noting that the general education curriculum as we have tended to see it over the years, reflects higher education’s response to the massive changes brought about by the start of the Industrial Revolution almost two centuries ago. As the new economy emerged, colleges and universities added research to their mission and greatly diversified their curricula to include majors in business, engineering, and technology, as well as the new social sciences—social psychology and sociology, for instance—that emerged from the social challenges brought about by immigration and urbanization. It also stimulated new institutional arrangements, as universities organized themselves around disciplines, resulting in academic departments, schools, and colleges based on an ever-increasing array of academic specialties. This organizational structure led to the distribution model, a way of introducing students to the range of subjects taught at the institution. The model tended to be reinforced by the institution’s budget model, which distributed funds back to departments based on the number of courses offered and students enrolled. General education courses attract larger student enrollments, which helps to fund graduate teaching assistant positions, which, in turn, supports the graduate program, etc. Moving general education away from the distribution model could have broad implications for how the overall academic endeavor is supported. Thus, institutions tend to innovate cautiously. A recent report from the American Association of Colleges and Universities notes that “general education redesign is growing as a priority” among member institutions and that “AAC&U member institutions are as likely to use the distribution model for their general education programs today as in the past, though nearly all use other integrative features in combination with a distribution model.”
That said, it is also important to recognize that, if one role of general education is to prepare students to participate effectively as citizens and professionals, we must acknowledge that today’s institutions are being re-shaped by another revolution—the global information society that has emerged in the 21st century. As the “Reedies” at Reed College argued, it is no longer sufficient to prepare students to live in a white, Euro-centric Western Civilization; today’s students must be prepared to be effective citizens and professional leaders in a global culture. How institutions define the scope and depth of general education experiences in the humanities, philosophy, and history will have a major impact on how well their graduates are prepared to live, work, and thrive in a truly global information society. We need to ask how important it will be to our students’ future to know about the social, philosophical, and scientific implications of artificial intelligence, quantum physics, and other building blocks of the next generation of the information society. We are entering a generation of innovation in this arena.