February 17, 2003

Botstein is latest UACT speaker

By Eric Rangus erangus@emory.edu

The next installment of the University Advisory Council on Teaching’s visiting speaker series will feature the youngest college president in American history, who will discuss his vision of what education can and should be.

Leon Botstein, president of Bard College, will deliver his lecture, “Education and the Promise of American Culture,” Tuesday, Feb. 25 at 5 p.m. in 208 White Hall. The event is free and open to the public.

“UACT tries to bring speakers to campus who not only would draw a lot of interest across the Emory community, but a large audience from outside as well,” said UACT Coordinator Kirsten Rambo.

Botstein should be able to do that. An innovative thinker in the area of education,

Botstein—who has appeared on national news programs as well as The Oprah Winfrey Show—has been critical of the country’s education system.

“Most American institutions are complacent and intellectually uniform, “ Botstein wrote in his 1997 book Jefferson’s Children: Education and the Promise of American Culture, which gave next week’s lecture its name. “American institutions are largely indistinguishable from each other, interchangeable in terms of curriculum, faculty and basic campus atmosphere.”

In his book, as he will offer in his lecture, Botstein professes several innovative ideas for transforming American education not only at the college level, but at the middle and high school levels as well.

For instance, he suggests eliminating two years of secondary school since he says adolescents are more mature than their peers from two or three generations ago. He also proposes smaller classes arranged more like seminars than the traditional classroom model.

“We thought his ideas were provocative and deserve more attention,” Rambo said.
Since Botstein’s work applies not only to college education but to secondary education, UACT has been promoting his appearance to more than 30 area schools and has invited students, staff members and parents to attend.

In 1975, Botstein was just 23 years old when he became president of Bard College, located in Annandale-on Hudson, N.Y. In addition to his presidency of Bard, Botstein is the musical director and principal conductor of the American Symphony Orchestra. In 1996 Botstein received the Centennial Medal from Harvard University for his scholarly work.

UACT, which has representatives from each of Emory’s nine schools, works to address issues and aspects of teaching that reach across those schools and promotes the development of teaching centers as well as discussion and reflection on teaching across the University.

Botstein’s appearance is the second event in this year’s UACT speaker series. In November, Indiana University professor Craig Nelson participated in a workshop and spoke about “Dysfunctional Illusions of Rigor in College Teaching.”

In April, UACT will sponsor a luncheon roundtable on “Academic Integrity and the World Wide Web.”






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