Education reformer visits University
Botstein discusses technology's promise, good leadership
The key to success at the University lies in inspiring students, education reformer Leon Botstein said to an audience of faculty Friday during a lecture entitled “Resisting Complacency, Fear and the Philistine: Modernization, Tradition and the University.” Botstein, the president of Bard College since 1975, challenged professors to rethink the way they teach students in the 21st century.
Discussing the University’s future is particularly relevant following the leadership crisis of last June said English Prof. Michael Levenson, who introduced Botstein.
“If there’s hope for us in the humanities, for the University — and of course there is — it will come from [working] together,” he said.
Botstein’s talk focused on modernization in education, reiterating that technology can provide faculty with an opportunity to improve the teacher-student interaction at mid-size and large universities.
“[Technology] is in the very early stages … [but it’s] a huge asset,” Botstein said. “It will allow us to abandon nonsensical teaching and do some real teaching with undergraduates … The big mistake is to be against it.”
Botstein critiqued the faculty for encouraging weak leadership. He added that they, too, have been complacent when confronted with instances of poor governance. “[You] don’t want leadership,” he said. “You want paper-pushers, you don’t want people telling you want you should do.”
The way to successfully rebuild the ideal of the University is to shape the undergraduate curriculum into one that engages students, Botstein said.
“Why should anyone be interested in Dickens? In Tolstoy?” he said. “The curriculum should be designed around the question, ‘How do I make it relevant for an undergrad?’”
Botstein’s visit was co-sponsored by the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture and the Institute of Humanities and Global Cultures, which has spent the past year examining “the future of the University.”