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Celebrating Our Other Curriculum

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Susan Fuhrman

President Susan Fuhrman

It's a given that at TC, we're proud of the academic content of the many classes listed in our course catalogue. With TC now topping the U.S.News and World Report annual ranking of graduate schools of education, we can justly pause to celebrate our excellence in that area.  Congratulations to all!

While we're at it, however, we should also celebrate our ad hoc curriculum: the many lectures, colloquia, conferences and meetings that take place throughout the year all over our campus. On any day of any week, you can walk into the Cowin Center, Grace Dodge 179 or any number of other conference rooms, classrooms or lounges, and find some of the top minds in the country (or the world) debating issues that go straight to the heart of our culture, our values and our future.

One such event was the fascinating debate held in early March among contributors to Pledging Allegiance, published by Teachers College Press and edited by Joel Westheimer. At a moment when the country seems more ideologically riven than at almost any time since the Civil War, and particularly as we grapple with our ongoing military involvement in Iraq, the question of what it means to be a patriot touches on all our lives.

At another event, debate focused around TC faculty member David Hansen's proposal that education should enable young children to understand the ideas and values of other cultures and apply them to situations in their own lives. On the one hand, as many listeners emphatically agreed, what could be a more timely idea? And on the other, as some critics argued, can the ideas and values of another culture ever really be understood and applied in a foreign context?  

Last but by no means least are the town meetings we have held during the past several weeks for members of the TC Community to meet the finalists for the position of Dean of the College. At these gatherings, we saw candid, forthright presentations by three excellent candidates, who also fielded (at times, courageously) questions about everything from their academic backgrounds to how they would promote ethnic and racial diversity in faculty searches. Now we have a winner, Tom James, currently Dean of the School of Education at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and we, in turn, are the winners, as well. In Tom, I believe we have chosen the right person at the right time, and the town meeting process contributed in no small measure to that decision.

These meetings, and all the gatherings in our ad hoc curriculum, exemplify the great tradition of American universities, and, I would like to think, of education schools in particular, as centers that promote freedom of speech and inquiry. Because we produce educators, hopefully we, even more than other institutions, can extend the process of enlightenment outside our walls. What ultimately matters most are not the answers to the issues we debate, but instead, the fact that we debate those issues in the first place. For a College, that is patriotism of the highest order.
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