Radical Reforms in Higher Education

By Lawrence J.   Fedewa (July 9, 2018)

This is the story of my 1970s experimental college.  The design and experience seem to be once again relevant and may contribute to to the current debate. In a word, I developed a college based on an individual curriculum for each student.

Even though I was the second youngest member of the faculty, I was appointed Dean of the College at a small private school near Kansas City, Missouri., which was starved for money, students and ideas. In an attempt to bolster our enrollment and our finances, I took a week away from the office to write a proposal for a federal grant.

The proposal turned out to be a design for a college radically different than any of us were used to. That was challenge enough, but the real challenges began when our proposal was funded with $1.2 million a year for three years!

We began by convincing a large local company, Hallmark Cards, to donate some space for a branch campus in their new downtown office buildings, which I then took over as President of the new campus. I started out alone in a big room with a fancy title, and a big budget. I had to find furniture, equipment, some staff, and some walls, But first came the real challenge namely, the curriculum itself.

First, I threw out the “Higher Education Owners’ Manual”, i.e. the rules and customs surrounding traditional higher education. In my proposal, I had specified that the new college be aimed at older students, preferably over 25 years of age. As Dean, I had watched so many students drop out of college that I wanted college to be available for them to come back to when they were ready.

There appeared to be two vital considerations which had been overlooked in the traditional college:

1.       Learning is a personal activity and should be student-centered, not structured for the convenience of the institution.

2.      Learning is not divided into pricing units, i.e. credits, and learning experiences cannot be properly measured or evaluated with such tools.

What is a college degree?

In order to build a new curriculum model, some definitions had to be refined. First, what is a college degree? The answer was that a college degree is a public declaration by a qualified faculty that a recognizable body of knowledge and skills has been attained by an individual. It is therefore essential that the faculty have sufficient experience of the person’s capabilities to enable a considered evaluation. A corollary is that every student must be enrolled for some period of observation in the same institution which is to grant the degree – no quickies.

What is meant by “student-centered?”

The next question was, What is meant by “student-centered?” I am a great believer in the value of motivation in the learning process. Thus, my logical question to the student was, “What would you like to know that you don’t know already? Since you have to be enrolled here anyway, why not use the time profitably?” This question was the first step toward the student’s academic plan, that is his or her personal curriculum. The academic plan consisted of three elements:

1.       “What is your learning goal?”

2.      “How much do you know now?” and

3.      “How can you make up the difference?”

The Portfolio Plan

Typically, each student needed some guidance in designing the academic plan. So, we assigned each to an academic counselor, or coach. We found that a good beginning was what we called the “Portfolio Plan.” The student was encouraged to construct a portfolio showing every formal learning experience he or she had had to that date. The student was required to include proof of anything that has ever been learned – including college transcripts, military courses, professional training, awards, jobs which demonstrated expertise, publications – everything. Some of the portfolios were enormous; we had to find extra storage while they were being evaluated. I am aware that “credit for experience” has become almost routine; but we were among the first to introduce this methodology. Our approach differed fundamentally from later programs in that we did not attempt to convert experience into college credits. The value of the experience was simply to validate the student’s answer to the question, “How much do you know now?” All inclusions had to be accepted by the Academic Counselor, and later by the Major Professor. In case of a dispute, the Academic Counsellor would act as the student advocate.

During the course of this exercise, many students began to discover their academic goals. They were encouraged to consider real life ambitions, and the results were unorthodox, but valid. Examples were: oral history, dance therapy, strategic (business) planning, and many others.

Academic Plans

The next step was the design of the curriculum to achieve the academic goal. At this point, a specialist in the general field of the proposed academic goal, whom we called the “Major Professor,” was introduced to the student. This was a member of the College faculty, typically a Ph.D. in the field. However, volunteers from the community were frequently necessary because of the unusual nature of the student’s chosen field of study. The Academic Advisor then took on additional duties as coordinator of the interactions between the student, the major professor and the expert mentor. Our experience was that these experts were all willing and excited to participate. As President of the new college, I personally recruited and briefed these distinguished individuals. I was never refused. Interestingly, even though we offered stipends, we never had to pay for their services. They universally found that they too were learning through this assignment.

The academic plans that evolved were very interesting. The oral historian was mentored by the Director of Oral History at the Truman Presidential Library in nearby Independence, Missouri. Dance therapy was co-invented by the student and the Chief of Psychiatry at the Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kansas. The strategic planner was tutored by the top executive for research and planning at Hallmark Cards. These are only a few of the community experts who were enlisted to help our students.

The Thesis and Graduation

In order to ensure academic validity, the Major Professor met regularly with the student and occasionally with the outside mentor. The final product of the academic plan had to be written and documented in the manner of a thesis, based on the new expertise which had been gained through this experience. Finally, borrowing from a doctoral program, the student was required to present the thesis to a panel of senior professors, who read the thesis, and then discussed the work in open forum with the candidate. If the thesis and the interview (to ensure authorship) were satisfactory, the student was graduated with an appropriate degree. All of the graduates walked into new jobs or promotions based on their academic work.

This system was wildly successful. The very first seminar meeting for the program was designed for about 15 students. More than 100 showed up the first night. We decided to charge a flat annual fee for the program – at a rather high figure for the times. We quickly discovered that employers were happy to subsidize their employees, although I had to make a few calls in the beginning to familiarize the personnel directors with the program. After the first year or so, the question never again arose.

Air Force Pilots

There was another dimension to the program as well. The home campus had a longstanding Degree Completion Program for U.S. military personnel. In conjunction with nearby Richards-Gebaur Air Force Base, where I had been privileged to serve as an adviser to the Community College of the Air Force, we offered the Portfolio Plan to Air Force personnel as well as civilian students.
Because of scheduling and other constraints, it was necessary to invent an early form of distance learning for these airmen. Computers were not available in those days, but we made extensive use of telephone, mail and after-hours conferences to maintain close communication with the Air Force students.

The most dramatic example of this new “distance learning” was the Air Force pilots, who were allowed to use their training flights to come to Richards-Gebaur and also to the college offices to have conferences with their counselors and professors. They came for all over – Alaska, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, Texas and all points of the compass. Never have I seen more enthusiasm for academic work than I saw with these guys – unless it was the excitement that pervaded the entire student body. This reaction was certainly proof that motivation is a primary ingredient of successful learning.

Accreditation

After the program had graduated its first students, I arranged for the North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools, the regional accreditation authority, to visit and evaluate the program. This was a two-step process. First, I paid three highly respected North Central evaluators to conduct their own investigation and to author a report. There were a couple of suggestions for minor adjustments, which we instituted immediately.

Then I invited the North Central to send an official team for an accreditation evaluation. Upon their arrival, we provided them with the report of the distinguished professors. In the end, our experiment passed accreditation with flying colors – much to the surprise even of a couple of the examiners.

After three years, circumstances drew me away from the new college. The program was relocated to the main campus and, I was told, eventually assimilated into the traditional curriculum.

But it was a heady experience for us all while it lasted!

 

© Richfield Press, Ltd. 2018 All Rights Reserved

 

 

A Father’s Prayer

In memory of the untimely death of Rupert Wyard (d. 6/25/18)                                

May he rest in peace

My son, my son, I leave you now.

It was not my choice to say good-bye

when you are still so young  and now

must face alone the greatest choices of your life –

of schooling, jobs and love and marriage.

 

I, your father, will never see you as a man,

as grown to the fullness of your strength

with beard and back and standing tall

amidst the storms and joys of years and all.

I will not be there as you walk

the paths of times to come.

But I leave to you the joys

and lessons of the times we shared

and ask that you carry on

my burdens and my cares

while I lay at rest as

my soul cries out to God above

to take my place as your  shield from harm

and lead you through the life I cannot follow,

for I today have left you now to walk alone.

                                     Lawrence J. Fedewa

                                     June 25, 2018

 

 

 

US Politics: Alternative Realities

by Lawrence J. Fedewa (June 23,2018) 

The most striking feature of American politics today may well be the completely different perceptions held by various groups of what “facts” each considers to be truth. It’s like they are living in different worlds. While there are some cynical “realists” who knowingly fashion “fake news”,  many partisans sincerely believe their views to be correct. So much so that they feel moral indignation and outrage at the other side.

At the root of these reactions is fear. All are afraid, in varying degrees, that their way of life is threatened by the other actors on the political stage. It is fear which drives people to irrational conclusions and closes their ears and minds to dialog with those who disagree with them. When logic is thrown out the window, all that remains is instinct. Imagination can be formed  by logic, but fear obscures all but the  most dangerous fantasies.                                  Keep Reading

Timetable of Highlights in the 2016 election cycle

 

Here is a timeline of the highlights: The chronology is useful valuable because it shows the flow of events, including some possible cause and effect sequences. (Note bold entries)

________________________________________________________________

2001-2013 Appointed by President George W. Bush and retained by President Obama, Robert Mueller served 2nd longest period in US history as FBI Director

September 4, 2013 James Comey appointed Director, FBI by President Barack Obama

March 2015  A series of events, including Congressional subpoena for Hillary Rodham Clinton’s emails as Secretary of State regarding the Benghazi murders, lead to public discovery of irregularities in Clinton’s use of emails as Secretary of State. DOS begins inquiry of her emails on an unauthorized server. Clinton holds press conference stating her conduct was proper.

April 12, 2015  Hillary Rodham Clinton announces her candidacy for President of the United States of America.

July 10, 2015  FBI opens an investigation of Clinton emails

July 16, 2015  Donald J. Trump announces his candidacy for President of the United States of America

September 2015  FBI Director James Comey testifies before Congress on Clinton email investigation, revealing that there is an investigation but no conclusions

March 2016  WikiLeaks publishes first Podesta emails

June 30, 2016  Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s private meeting with Bill Clinton – soon discovered by press

July 5, 2016  FBI Director Comey announces that Clinton will not be prosecuted

July 19, 2016  Trump wins Republican nomination

July 26, 2016  Clinton wins Democrat nomination

July 2016  FBI begins investigation of possible collusion between Trump campaign and Russia

October 28, 2016  Comey sends letter to Congress stating that FBI investigation resumed on discovery of Clinton emails on former Congressman Anthony Weiner’s computer

November 6, 2016 Comey sends 2nd letter to Congress announcing that the Weiner evidence irrelevant and Clinton investigation closed.

November 8, 2016  Donald J. Trump elected 45th President of the United States of America

January 20, 2017 Inauguration of Donald Trump as 45th President

May 9, 2016 President trump dismisses James Comey as Director , FBI

May 2017  Associate Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein appoints Robert Mueller as Special Counsel to investigate Russian collusion with Trump campaign, using same FBI investigators who had been on the case since July. 2016.

 

© Richfield Press, 2018 (All rights reserved)

 

 

DOJ Mess: Connecting the Dots

With the publication of the Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector General’s long-awaited report on Thursday, June 14, 2018 the complicated tale of FBI involvement in the 2016-17 presidential election got even more confusing.  Considering all the public information available, the following is a likely scenario of the events.

The Beginnings

Apparently,  the FBI involvement in this entire episode was originally triggered by the obvious questions about Hillary Clinton’s use of private emails. Obama’s FBI Director James Comey realized that the situation posed a potentially fatal threat to her eligibility to run for president. He believed it was his responsibility to neutralize that threat, possibly on orders from President Obama, perhaps through Attorney General Loretta Lunch. Accordingly, he initiated an FBI investigation, but kept control in his own office, using a hand-picked group of investigators, who were known to Comey as sympathetic to Clinton/Obama. Keep Reading

Big Weekend: Quebec, Singapore, Qingdao

 

Quebec: the G7

The G7 and the Singapore meetings both have their roots in the 20th century. The G-7 is an organization designed to promote dialog among the largest economies of the “free world” – as defined by the Cold War — namely, France, Italy, United Kingdom and Spain from Europe, Japan from Asia, and The US and Canada from North America. Russia was also included in this group until it was expelled as an expression of protest against its forced annexation of Crimea in 2014.

As everyone knows, the American President, Donald J. Trump, is following his demand that NATO partners pay their fair share of the cost of their defense, with a demand that these trading partners lower their tariffs on American imports to the same level as American tariffs on their exports to the USA. In fact, on Sunday. Mr. Trump suggested that all G7 countries should eliminate ALL tariffs.

These folks object strongly to losing their gravy train, but their dependence on the USA as the largest market in the world for trade as well as defense suggests that they will reluctantly negotiate this equalization of tariffs as they have defense costs – which is moving in the right direction, if slowly. Keep Reading

A Bloodless Coup d’ Etat?

 

 

by Lawrence J. Fedewa (June 1, 2018)

Numerous conspiracy theories are being expounded by recent books, starting perhaps with the works of David Horowitz, and currently with Jerome Corsi’s Killing the Deep State (Humanix, 2018) among many others. At first, I was very skeptical that these portraits of the “never-Trumpers” could possibly be true. The individual actions were not hard to believe, even at the beginning. We had only to listen to Rachel Maddow or Lawrence O’Donnell or Chris Matthews or The View for a few minutes to understand that there are Trump haters making outrageous accusations and creating fake news against the President.

What was difficult to believe was that the dissenters had actually been organized and deployed with a goal of overturning the 2016 election. After all, such acts are treason. But the accumulation of evidence is truly staggering. It seems that the FBI, the Obama Justice Department, and the CIA in cooperation with the Director of National Intelligence not only tried in vain to prevent the election of Donald Trump but conspired to overthrow his presidency at any cost.  This plot to place or replace the elected President with the candidate of their choice is becoming more and more visible as documents are unveiled. It seems increasingly likely that the bureaucrats joined the Obama zealots and eventually the entire Democrat Party in an attempt to overthrow the President of the United States. Not since Aaron Burr’s alleged conspiracy in 1806 have we heard of such an attempt to overthrow the legitimate government.

Without the bureaucrats, the plot had no chance of maturing, let alone succeeding. It is hard to believe that these hard-nosed professionals were motivated by the quixotic fantasies of the politicians. Sentimental they are not. For the most part, their jobs were safe under any administration. So, why did they care?

The best guess lies with the basis of all bureaucratic ambition – power. The opportunity to control the presidency must have been the deadly elixir – the Kool- Aid – that Lynch, Brennan, Mueller, Comey, Clapper and the rest were drinking. True, Trump campaigned on reducing regulations (the mother’s milk of bureaucratic power), but so have many other candidates. What was it that motivated them to sign on to treason?

We may never know. Initially, they may have been intrigued by the prospect of serving under a President Hillary Clinton, who had turned her position as Secretary of State into a money machine, and who was likely to share the next step up with the chosen few who had helped her along the way. But that fantasy vanished with the election. Why continue? Why set up a mechanism by which they could get the Trump Administration to actually pay for the agent of its own destruction?  Ingenious yes, but why? Only they know that answer.

The scenario which is slowly coming to light sounds strikingly similar to the conspiracy theories which surrounded the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. And, even earlier, the assassination of the populist Huey Long ended his challenge to President Roosevelt. Are today’s conspirators thinking along similar lines as their current plot unravels?

The terrible truth is that this cabal has not yet been defeated! It is possible that they may still succeed in their campaign to mount a bloodless coup d’ etat! The Democrat Party — one of the only two major political parties  in America — has joined their cause and threatens to conclude this treasonous exercise if they win sufficient seats in the next Congress. Even then, intentionally gullible as they seem to be, it is unlikely that they can actually produce a conviction. But, if the House succeeds in approving  articles of impeachment, you never know what might happen.

The most pernicious act in American history is still a possibility!

 

© Richfield Press, 2018 (All rights reserved)

 

Race in America: 2018

                                                                                       

by Lawrence J. Fedewa (May 26, 2018)

Just when white America reckoned that the election of a black President had finally signaled that racial equality in America had been achieved, it has become obvious that the distance between the races may be greater than ever, at least for large groups of both races.  There have always been two different channels of communication between the races, the “business” channel and the “personal” channel.

The business channel is used when there are people of all races present, e.g., in business settings, or in public, media, or written communications. This channel for whites traditionally ignored black sensibilities entirely. It seems justified to say that there has been improvement in this channel. As black concerns have become better known to whites, these conversations have become more “politically correct”. Certain terms, such as, “nigger”, and “whitey”, and many others are now rarely used in polite society.     Keep Reading

Response to The Federalist’s John Daniel Davidson re: Jonah Goldberg’s “Suicide of the West”

[Author’s Note: This essay is not in my usual sandbox, perhaps too philosophical for some. But I just couldn’t resist!!]

By Lawrence J. Fedewa

John Daniel Davidson’s critique of Jonah Goldberg’s “Suicide of the West” (The Federalist, May 14, 2018) is as thought-provoking as the book he is analyzing. However, there is an alternative view that undermines all the theories of liberal democratic capitalism’s life support – including those of C.S. Lewis and Patrick Deneen. The basic argument of all these theories is that liberal democratic capitalism must have an anchor to maintain its connection to reality.  The anchor might be religion, science, culture, or something else. Without a viable anchor, we are faced with contemplating what a very wise colleague of mine used to say, “The Enlightenment is an interesting experiment; I wonder how it will end.”

The possibility of its death becomes more imminent, it seems, not because of its suicide or of its self-inflicted wounds. Liberal democratic capitalism needs an anchor which is recognizable by the millions of those who are living, consciously or unconsciously, under its spell, i.e. its world view. The reason the anchors of the past do not work for the people of today is that these anchors are put forth in a language that they do not understand.

The scientific patois of the Enlightenment finds it hard to understand a God who is omnipresent but invisible, just as it stumbles when confronting all the choices we must make with no clear scientifically established criteria to rely on. The fundamental dilemma of modernity is that it has produced scientific miracles by rejecting appearances in favor of tangible evidence, but, in the process, it has also eliminated certainty. Yet some level of certainty is necessary in order for us to have confidence in our life decisions. It is here that we reach the limitations of a scientific world view. The scientific method has not produced enough reliable knowledge to guide human ethics. Keep Reading

POPE FRANCIS I’s “REJOICE AND BE GLAD” — an American Catholic Response

 

By Lawrence J. Fedewa, May 12, 2018

Pope Francis I released his third papal letter on April 9, 2018. (dated March 19, 2018). Its cheerful title in English means “Rejoice and be glad”. American reactions have been mixed, more or less along predictable lines. That is, his conservative critics found his view of contemporary holiness too flexible and too elastic; and the “official” Catholics thought it was just great. This reader found it to be too long, too confusing, and, unfortunately, largely irrelevant.

This is unfortunate because religion in general and Christianity as an institution sorely needs an interpretation of its beliefs and its morality which demonstrates not only its relevance but its importance to modern life and to the unavoidable decisions we all must make.

During the early days of his papacy, Francis I appeared to many as the messenger sent from God to help us through these troubled times. His personal charisma, his humble demeanor and his wit and charm were much on display during his historic visit to the United States in 2015 and he gained a great following.

Luckily, few of those millions of admirers will read this 12,000-word exhortation, and the images he created during that visit will remain their view of him. Among the more curious followers of his papacy, however, he has become very controversial. The basis for these reactions tends to be his writings rather than his actions, such as his visits to Israel, Palestine, and many other lands. This document illustrates some of the common objections to his teachings.            Keep Reading