Today there were several visits planned, so our group split up. Caroline Maessen and Dorine Tamis went to the Colorado Department of Higher Education to learn about higher education in this state. Caroline writes:
Inta Morris (chief advocacy & outreach officer) gave us an overview of the types of education in Colorado:
• public institutions (eg uni of Colorado Denver and Boulder and community colleges),
• private accredited, both not for profit (uni of Denver and Regis) and for profit and
• private occupational schools (2 years or less, certificates. E.g. School for massage).
The main difference between American and Dutch education is how it is financed. In Colorado tuition is very high an students are responsible themselves to arrange funding. Often their families help, but they may also apply for all sorts of financial aid. As Dawn Taylor Owens – executive director- put it: if you search well you can find scholarships for colored, red haired or even if you make a dress out of duck tape for your final project.
Inta stressed that the budget for education is very small and constantly under pressure. “People in Colorado with their wild west mentality don’t like to pay taxes”. Especially at this time, since today the elections are being held. The present gouvernor reserved a hundred million dollars extra for education. If the Republicans win, everything could (and will) be different again…
Other things they shared were very recognizable, like the fact that institutions don’t like state involvement except when they have a bag full of money, the effect of accreditations and discussions on performance contracts and whether they are useful. Until now the latter aren’t making any difference in the number of degrees, student success or the attraction of latinos and other minorities.
They spend most of their effort on reducing the achievement gap with programs for teaching English to not native speakers in elementary school and programs to help ethnic minorities to find their way to college.
It is Dawn’s task to convince minority groups, especially the large population of Hispanics, to go to college. She shared some interesting anecdotes with us, like the one time she met a girl who defended her mother’s job as a maid. “It is a noble job to clean other peoples houses, she argued.” Dawn responded: “Of course, there nothing wrong with that, but I’d like you to go home and ask your mother whether that is what she wants for you”.
A few weeks later Dawn received an e-mail from the girl stating that she and her mother had had the best talk ever. It appeared that the girl now understood that her mother assumed, that her daughter knew that she worked so hard to give her daughter an opportunity for a better life.
One of the arguments Dawn uses often, is to show how relatively small the investment may be (student have an average debt of 20k after graduation) compared to what it brings students later in life (1 million dollars more earnings over a lifetime, because of better jobs). She uses visualisations of their future to show high school students why they should attend college. “Take a look, this is the barrel that you will drive when you start working after high school and this is the car you can afford with a job after college. Same with shoes or housing. This seems to work rather well.
It makes me wonder what will happen if we start visualizing the future with our honours students?
In the afternoon Robert de Bruijn, Kenneth van Rijsbergen and Alexander Hustinx visited the University Honors and Leadership Program at the University of Colorado. The program selects and admits a cohort of 40 participants per year on the basis of GPA, essay and interviews. The program for substitutes the normal core curriculum and is differentiated by integrated programs. An example given was the subjects of biology and politics are combined into one course in which the contemporary political issues surrounding developments in the field of biology are considered. Courses are developed or proposed on the basis of integrated disciplines and leadership.
Classes do not exceed 20 students and are characterised by discussion about the material rather than broadcasting the textbook through lectures. It is a successful program albeit shows little potential for scalability and the program directors also show little interest in growing larger than 40 participants per year in the interests of keeping the community of students intimate. In principle the University Honors & Leadership (UHL) Program is two different tracks with some measure of hybrid courses that count for both tracks. In practice however, the tracks are less important as students seldom choose a track. They choose what they find interesting from electives and at the end of the study “their” track becomes manifest.
While the honours track is effectively a challenging academic program and the leadership track is about personal and shared leadership in practical environments, the UHL is a single program that combines both as sketched above.
An other group went to a conversation with Ken Wilber on his integral theory and the change of education. We were invited to his penthouse with a great view. Impressed already. The most important question he told us we should think of is: What do we want our students to learn?
We should make choices on the topics and the kind of intelligences we want to emphasize. Wilber referred to The multiple intelligences theory of Howard Gardner. He also claimed that we seem to think that development stops with adolescence while in adulthood we still grow. That means that life long learning should also address this to reach our highest potential. In all personal development theories there is talk of six to eight stages of development, for example the hierarchy of needs by Maslow. Also Carol Gilligan describes stages in moral development. Wilber also refers to Lawrence Kohlberg and his stages of moral development. And Robert Kegan (Harvard) brings together several theories on the evolving self.
In (higher) education we seem to ignore this personal and general pathway.
When students are asked what they want to learn, they claim they want to learn about themselves. This is also very necessary in order to be able to find solutions for the global issues we struggle with right now. None of them can be solved by just one nation. We have to look at them worldwide and integral. Therefore we need people who are able to think globally and integral.Only fully self actualized human beings can address fully global issues. We have to put all the available knowledge together.
Education should help people to reach higher levels, but you can;t talk someone into it. We can help to accelerate levels of consciousness by exposing students to this level of systematic thinking and complex awareness. The AQAL-model can help understanding the different perspectives and different levels and combine them. There is nor good nor bad, we cab=n use the quadrants to understand everything about a question (or ourselves). People who are able to think globally and approach issues integrally are needed to educate the rest and to show how it works by just doing it.
In education we need to ask ourselves: What is a fully educated person? We have to ask our students: ‘What matters most to you?’ And we need to be aware of the fact that the older generation teaches the younger generation. There is a risk that we are standing in the way of the student’s learning process. We are educating so little of their full potential.
So let’s make choices: what do our honours students need to learn, want to learn in order to deal with themselves and with the present and future world?