Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas - See You Next Year

The Gruntled Center will take a break for Christmas week.

I am grateful for the early Christmas present of Senate passage of the health care bill.

See you in the new year.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Pitching In is Another Centre Virtue

Each year I join other members of the Centre College faculty and staff, as well as the student Orientation Committee, in helping first-year students move in. We get to meet the new students, and their parents are wonderfully grateful.

When I took my eldest to Swarthmore, my alma mater, there was also an Orientation Committee. They saw us pull up with a van full of stuff. They did not move to help. We later learned that the tee shirts they were wearing said "I am not your mother or your father."

Moving daughter in to her dorm sophomore year, I saw a young man sitting in the dorm lobby, reading. I pointed out to him, in a friendly spirit, that there were young ladies who could use his assistance moving their heavy things in. He gave me an odd look, picked up his book, and left the building.

This reaction would be unthinkable at Centre. The Centre ethos is to pitch in, especially if someone asks for help. Centre students are overwhelmingly involved in service. The Greek organizations, to which most students belong, sell themselves to the world not on their academics, or parties, or friendliness, though they do all those things well, but on their distinctive service projects.

In the big world, Centre alumni are famous, sometimes national leaders, in how many of them pitch in to help Centre itself. In projects great and small, you can count on old Colonels the help.

Service is a Centre virtue.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Centre's Institutional Builders

The Auditor of Public Accounts of the Commonwealth of Kentucky is Crit Luallen, a Centre graduate. She has been an excellent auditor, an exemplar of clean government. Prior to this elected office she held a number of high-level appointed positions in state government. All of her work has been involved in building up institutions and making sure they run well.

Ed Hatchett was Crit Luallen's predecessor as Auditor. He is also a Centre gradute and a fine exemplar of clean government. His work has also been devoted to making institutions run well.

One of the important audits that Crit Luallen has performed lately has been of the Kentucky Association of Counties. Their officers spent association money wildly and inappropriately. The old officers were forced out. Today it was announced that a new head has been appointed to clean up the Kentucky Association of Counties: Ed Hatchett.

Centre College does well at training young people to build up institutions and make them run well. This is not what every college does. It is good that we have a great ecology of educational paths and higher education institutions to train all kinds of people for our great and varied nation. But this skill - building up institutions and making sure they run well - is a clearly a valuable contribution to the whole. Go Colonels at your real work.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Explaining How to Be Original

"How to be original in our quizzes in order to make a higher grade would have been helpful."

This comment stood out on my course evaluations for this term.

My standard for a good grade - a B - is that students tell me back what I told them. I think this is often the high-school standard for an A.

My standard for an excellent grade - an A - is that students tell me back what I (and the course readings) told them, in detail, and that they add something original.

Some students find adding something original to be the easy part. They think about what we are studying and make connections with other things they have studied all the time. The hard part for them is demonstrating mastery of the official curriculum.

Other students, though, like the one above, have a different reaction, that is somewhat surprising to me. Most Centre students are very good at rising to expectations. This kind of student poses a kind of paradoxical problem: how to explain that I expect the unexpected?