to college at the University of Idaho!
The next several years you spend at the University of Idaho promise
vast opportunity for personal and intellectual exploration and growth.
While the college experience involves academic study, it also
involves developing your sense of self, including how you will understand
and interact with others, your society and the world at large.
The experience offers new opportunities for social engagement
outside the classroom and study time.
Your choices concerning social engagement will shape how you
approach your academics, and your academic life will shape, and impinge
upon, your social life. If
you devote your energy toward the intellectual pursuit of a liberal arts
education, if you “claim” your education and strive to understand the
links between intellectual pursuit and personal life, your reality and
your self will be transformed in the process of becoming more “free.”
important key in the exciting process of developing your sense of self at
the university involves cultivating your ability to become a critical
"actor" as opposed to simply someone who is acted upon.
Whether you are in your academic study or in other social
engagement, you can cultivate the ability to be an “actor” through,
among other things, questioning behavior and social practice, pursuing
learning and information, exploring new perspectives, and thinking
critically. Including this
class, your intellectual study can assist the current stage of your path
toward becoming an actor. Adrienne
Rich once made the following statement in a speech to a group of college
students: "The first thing I want to say to you who are students, is
that you cannot afford to think of being here to receive an education; you
will do much better to think of yourselves as being here to claim one. One
of the dictionary definitions of the verb 'to claim' is: to take as the
rightful owner; to assert in the face of possible contradiction. 'To
receive' is to come into possession of; to act as receptacle or container
for; to accept as authoritative or true. The difference is that between
acting and being acted-upon." Dr. Rich made these remarks in an effort to move students to
think critically about their academic and personal lives.
This quote reflects my goal of creating a learning environment in
which claiming one's education becomes a real possibility, the connection
between academic study and personal life becomes clear, and claiming an
education, thus, becomes an avenue toward claiming one’s personal life,
toward knowing one’s self, and, ultimately, toward contributing to the
betterment of humanity.
the effectiveness of this learning environment depends on the degree to
which you participate in claiming. What
does "claiming one's education" mean?
Claiming one's education means taking responsibility for your
intellectual growth. Rich
argues that this responsibility includes refusing to let others do your
naming, learning, thinking, and talking for you.
She argues that it means you must exercise your curiosity and
accept the challenges provided to you in educational arenas.
You must identify yourself as a student and a thinker, challenge
yourself to raise your expectations about your abilities and your desire
to learn, and recognize the potential for your college studies to generate
understanding along with the expected credentials and information.
Claiming an education means that you believe you are someone in
whom others should invest their time and energy and someone who is capable
of interacting with multiple forms of knowledge.
You recognize the privilege of spending a number of years in formal
study, and you approach your learning with humility.
When you engage this process of claiming, you act appropriately as
a curious, thinking, and focused individual.
In claiming your education, you must develop your
ability to think critically. Thinking
critically does not involve merely contesting or criticizing one idea or
another. It involves
questioning knowledge and ideas, both those you possess and those
presented, by first reflecting and considering how the ideas make sense
and the evidence for them. You must evaluate through employing information and reason,
identify weaknesses, and, if necessary, confront ideas from an informed
position. If the ideas are
reasonable, if they make sense, then you must consider their implications
on a changing reality. Once
this process is completed, and not before, you can understand ideas and
knowledge and claim them as your own if you so choose.
Your primary responsibility is to think about the knowledge and
ideas you pursue in the classroom. As
such, much of learning takes place outside the class, and it is as much
your responsibility to conduct this learning as it is the professor’s
responsibility to present you with matter worthy of outside, creative,
reasoned, and continued thought.
large, bureaucratic settings like a university, it becomes very easy to
receive an education. To
receive an education you passively accept information from others, do the
least amount of work and exploration possible as required to achieve a
desired grade in a course, and remain silent while allowing others to
speak for you. Many of you probably have experienced this in high school.
Certainly, it is possible for you to merely receive an education in
many of your courses at the University of Idaho.
However, I encourage each of you to consider what is lost when
students simply receive an education.
In receiving an education, students’ intellectual potential
remains underdeveloped regardless of how much information they memorize or
the GPAs they achieve. They remain constrained by the ideas and beliefs others,
including parents, the media, churches, political parties, friends,
teachers, etc., have handed them. At
stake is students’ intellectual freedom.
Freedom involves the ability and the desire to think clearly, to
articulate ideas, to form and reform values based on that thinking, to be
creative and self-disciplined, and to intentionally act.
Freedom is founded on the ability to be curious, to be patient, to
listen, to evaluate claims and contradictions, and to reflect.
states, "clear thinking, active discussion, and excellent writing are
all necessary for intellectual freedom, and these require hard work."
In practice, claiming your education means you do not seek the easy
route through your studies. It means you read and reread assigned texts in an attempt to
understand the claims being made. It
also means you engage the material in the classroom, by asking questions,
helping to clarify ideas, and/or quietly but purposefully exercising your
thoughts on any given topic or idea.
You move beyond the separation of study and life so that the
questions, perspectives, problems, issues, answers, and alternatives
raised in the academic setting begin to inform your personal life in
general. They begin to shape
your behavior as you think about them at night, talk about them with
friends and family, see them in media and popular culture, and apply them
in reflection on your behavior and that of others.
For example, when you begin to explore, question, and reframe your
attitudes about social issues, your behavior in your everyday life should
shift to be more consistent with your new understanding.
your education also means practicing your writing through developing
outlines and drafts and through careful editing of your papers.
Although writing is intimidating and/or tedious for many young
students, it is an essential medium for communicating and for
understanding. It is also a
skill that most of you will need to successfully function in your
professional life. It is an
art that can only be cultivated through practice.
However, mastering the ability to construct a cogent and compelling
essay or a succinct and clear argument induces confidence and pleasure. Thus, you will be expected to engage in this aspect of
learning in this class, and, to appropriately claim your education, you
will invest the effort necessary to begin to master this art.
claiming your education means developing a general curiosity about the
world. Rather than accepting
"pat" answers or accepting the world as it has been handed to
you, a person who claims his or her education develops and pursues a sense
of wonder about social life. That
person confronts what they currently know by questioning the known,
pursuing answers, entertaining possibilities, exploring without fear of
discovery, demonstrating humility, respecting knowledge, and listening.
When you engage in these activities you are becoming
students must assume their share of responsibility for what happens in the
classroom, teachers also have a responsibility. As a teacher, my responsibility is to provide you with
opportunities to claim your education.
I must believe in the importance of what I teach, I must take my
teaching responsibilities seriously, and I must embrace the challenge to
provide conditions for the expanding of minds.
I must recognize my privilege of having a job that entails learning
and teaching. I must expose
you to information, to perspectives, to questions, to a range of possible
answers, to critique, and to reflection.
I must demonstrate in a compelling manner the relevance of the
material to your daily life. Because
I must expect you to be curious, I must fuel that curiosity.
I must demand that you engage the materials ranging from lecture,
group activities, discussion, films, and research, and expect you to
exercise and cultivate your academic and intellectual abilities.
In short, I must believe that we all have the potential to
understand, create and disseminate knowledge, and I must provide students
with the environment and support that makes it possible for students to
accept the challenge to begin becoming intellectually free.
Not all students will accept this challenge, not all students will
claim their education, but, if they don’t, it is my challenge to ensure
that at least they had an opportunity.
Students in this class can rest assured that I have accepted this
challenge and will do my best to practice it on a daily basis.
are on the threshold of an exciting adventure!
I wish you the best of luck as you navigate the world here at the
University of Idaho and encourage you to claim your education.
Pursue freedom and a just world.