This week’s post is the Monticello College Hymn or official poem. Although written 169 years ago, the nature of humanity does not change and the emotional and spiritual state of human beings as a whole rarely changes–which makes this poem as applicable today as it was a century and a half ago.
The Present Crisis
James Russell Lowell – written 1844
When a deed is done for Freedom,
through the broad earth’s aching breast,
runs a thrill of joy prophetic, trembling on from east to west,
And the slave, where’er he cowers, feels the soul within him climb,
to the awful verge of manhood, as the energy sublime
Of a century bursts full-‐blossomed on the thorny stem of Time. (5)
Through the walls of hut and palace shoots the instantaneous throe,
When the travail of the Ages wrings earth’s systems to and fro;
At the birth of each new Era, with a recognizing start,
Nation wildly looks at nation, standing with mute lips apart,
And glad Truth’s yet mightier man-‐child leaps beneath the Future’s heart. (10)
So the Evil’s triumph sendeth, with a terror and a chill,
Under continent to continent, the sense of coming ill,
And the slave, where’er he cowers, feels his sympathies with God
In hot tear-‐drops ebbing earthward, to be drunk up by the sod,
Till a corpse crawls round unburied, delving in the nobler clod. (15)
For mankind are one in spirit, and an instinct bears along,
Round the earth’s electric circle, the swift flash of right or wrong;
Whether conscious or unconscious, yet Humanity’s vast frame,
Through its ocean-‐sundered fibres feels the gush of joy or shame,
In the gain or loss of one race all the rest have equal claim. (20)
Once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of Truth with Falsehood, for the good or evil side;
Some great cause, God’s new Messiah, offering each the bloom or blight,
Parts the goats upon the left hand, and the sheep upon the right,
And the choice goes by forever ‘twixt that darkness and that light. (25)
Hast thou chosen, O my people, on whose party thou shalt stand?
Ere the Doom from its worn sandals shakes the dust against our land?
Though the cause of Evil prosper, yet ‘tis Truth alone is strong,
And, albeit she wander outcast now, I see around her throng
Troops of beautiful, tall angels, to enshield her from all wrong. (30)
Backward look across the ages and the beacon-‐moments see,
That, like peaks of some sunk continent, jut through Oblivion’s sea;
Not an ear in court or market for the low, foreboding cry
Of those Crises, God’s stern winnowers, from whose feet earth’s chaff must fly,
Never shows the choice momentous till the judgment hath passed by. (35)
Careless seems the great Avenger; history’s pages but record
One death-‐grapple in the darkness ‘twixt old systems and the Word;
Truth forever on the scaffold, Wrong forever on the throne,
Yet that scaffold sways the future, and, behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above his own. (40)
We see dimly in the Present what is small and what is great,
Slow of faith how weak an arm may turn the iron helm of fate,
But the soul is still oracular; amid the market’s din,
List the ominous stern whisper from the Delphic cave within,
“They enslave their children’s children who make compromise with sin.” (45)
Slavery, the earth-‐born Cyclops, fellest of the giant brood,
Sons of brutish Force and Darkness, who have drenched the earth with blood,
Famished in his self-‐made desert, blinded by our purer day,
Gropes in yet unblasted regions for his miserable prey,
Shall we guide his gory fingers where our helpless children play? (50)
Then to side with Truth is noble when we share her wretched crust,
Ere her cause bring fame and profit, and ’tis prosperous to be just;
Then it is the brave man chooses, while the coward stands aside,
Doubting in his abject spirit, till his Lord is crucified,
And the multitude make virtue of the faith they had denied. (55)
Count me o’er earth’s chosen heroes—they were souls that stood alone,
While the men they agonized for hurled the contumelious stone,
Stood serene, and down the future saw the golden beam incline
To the side of perfect justice, mastered by their faith divine,
By one man’s plain truth to manhood and to God’s supreme design. (60)
By the light of burning heretics Christ’s bleeding feet I track,
Toiling up new Calvaries ever with the cross that turns not back,
And these mounts of anguish number how each generation learned
One new word of that grand Credo which in prophet-‐hearts hath burned
Since the first man stood God-‐conquered with his face to heaven upturned. (65)
For Humanity sweeps onward: where to-‐day the martyr stands,
On the morrow crouches Judas with the silver in his hands;
Far in front the cross stands ready and the crackling fagots burn,
While the hooting mob of yesterday in silent awe return
To glean up the scattered ashes into History’s golden urn. (70)
‘Tis as easy to be heroes as to sit the idle slaves
Of a legendary virtue carved upon our fathers’ graves,
Worshippers of light ancestral make the present light a crime;
Was the Mayflower launched by cowards, steered by men behind their time?
Turn those tracks toward Past or Future, that made Plymouth Rock sublime? (75)
They were men of present valor, stalwart old iconoclasts,
Unconvinced by axe or gibbet that all virtue was the Past’s;
But we make their truth our falsehood, thinking that hath made us free,
Hoarding it in mouldy parchments, while our tender spirits flee
The rude grasp of that great Impulse which drove them across the sea. (80)
They have rights who dare maintain them; we are traitors to our sires,
Smothering in their holy ashes Freedom’s new-‐lit altar-‐fires;
Shall we make their creed our jailer? Shall we, in our haste to slay,
From the tombs of the old prophets steal the funeral lamps away
To light up the martyr-‐fagots round the prophets of to-‐day? (85)
New occasions teach new duties; Time makes ancient good uncouth;
They must upward still, and onward, who would keep abreast of Truth;
Lo, before us gleam her camp-‐fires! we ourselves must Pilgrims be,
Launch our Mayflower, and steer boldly through the desperate winter sea,
Nor attempt the Future’s portal with the Past’s blood-‐rusted key. (90)
Our post this week is by a Monticello College student.
Brandon Mitchell sent me his experiences with higher education on 1/26/2013.
Shortly after high school, like many kids my age I started attending the local state university to get training for my career.
I took a few introduction classes in accounting and computer science to decide which one I would choose as my major.
I quickly chose computer science and proceeded to get my bachelors degree, graduating with honors. After about eleven years as a successful software engineer I decided it was time to further my education by getting a Masters in Business Administration.
While studying for my entrance exam I learned that Monticello College was starting its first year of online studies for a bachelor degree. After some pondering I decided to go with Monticello College and put off getting my masters degree. After one year at Monticello College I would like to share my experience of my two college experiences.
For my first degree I was at school to please my professors and conform to what they thought and said so I could receive a good grade. When questions were asked there was always just one right answer which the professor was expecting. Asking questions or challenging the professors when you thought they might be wrong or that an idea could be improved upon was discouraged.
At Monticello College my mentors always encouraged us to question and challenge.
It was very clear that students and mentors were learning together and improving themselves.
Everything was open for discussion.
At Monticello College I also had one-on-one time with my mentor every single week to talk about studies and just life in general.
If I was struggling with my studies one week because of personal issues my mentor was aware of it and could work with me. I never felt like just another student or that the mentor was just there to get a paycheck.
While getting my first degree I purchased textbooks but rarely read them since the contents were spoon fed to me in lectures. I usually had to spend over one hundred dollars per book and had no use for them once class was over. If I was lucky I was able to sell them back for around ten dollars. I would usually only have one book per class, which ended up being two to four books a semester.
Monticello College uses classics and original sources instead of textbooks. Books for the first semester were a little expensive but that is only because I had to purchase The Great Books of the Western World. Since these books are used every semester it makes the book purchases for following semesters fairly inexpenxsive. The cost of the rest of the books ranged from three dollars to twenty dollars each.
I was required to read around 40 books and documents each semester; this gave a wide variety of thought on the subjects that were studied.
Every one of the books has a place in my personally library and will continue to get used outside of school.
Since almost every class at Monticello College holds a discussion on the readings it was required to actually read the books.
It was very obvious to the entire class if you were not prepared so the books actually got used.
While getting my first degree I made no lasting friendships since each person showed up to class, listened to the lecture and then went on with their life.
I could not give a single last name of another student from my college.
At Monticello College I feel as though my fellow students and my mentors are my friends. I keep in contact with them outside of school and I am interested in how their lives are going.
During all the discussions you learn a lot about each other and quickly become friends.
I can’t even imagine the bonds that will be built with the on-campus students.
I am amazed at the quality of both the mentors and the students at Monticello College.
After experiencing just one year at Monticello College I don’t have any desire to return to a modern university.
As I visit with my co-workers, who are all working on their master degrees from local universities I constantly hear them complain about the classes and projects they must complete.
All they hear from me is how much I am learning and enjoying my studies. Monticello College has shown me what a true education should be and I will not settle for less. I would highly recommend everyone investigate Monticello College whether for a degree program or one of their continuing education programs. These programs will change who you are and put you on the path to being the best person you can be.
On December 5, 2012, English rapper-poet Suli Breaks posted a video that took the internet by storm. With over 500,000 hits in the first couple of days, and over 2.5 million to date, this youtube video went viral almost the second it was released.
This young college graduate, turned self-styled poet, takes a strong stance on schooling, urging the world’s youth to “understand your motives and reassess your aims.”
“Let’s look at the statistics,” Suli Breaks says, pointing to moguls worth billions of dollars as examples of those who succeeded without graduating from a institution of higher learning: the late Steve Jobs, Oprah Winfrey, Mark Zuckerberg, and Michael Jackson.
He also points to icons who are famous not for their money but for their impact such as Jesus, Muhammad, Socrates, Mother Teresa, Malcolm X, Spielburg, Shakespeare, Jesse Owens, and Beethoven.
He is not saying that education is a waste; on the contrary, he is simply saying that there is a huge gulf between education and schooling.
“Redefine how you view education; understand its true meaning,” Suli Breaks says. “Education is not just about regurgitating facts from a book on someone else’s opinion on a subject to pass an exam. Look at it. Picasso was educated in creating art. Shakespeare was educated in the art of all that was written. Colonel Harland Sanders was educated in the art of creating Kentucky fried chicken.”
Sometimes if takes a young black poet to help us see what is right in front of us.
This post is a tribute to Earl Shorris, one of my favorite writers on education who passed away in 2012. I am reprinting the April 16, 2013 Wall Street Journal Book Review of his latest book, The Art of Freedom. This piece was written by Naomi Schaefer Riley.
In The Art of Freedom, Earl Shorris describes his efforts to establish a set of courses that would teach the core texts of Western civilization to people living in poverty, whose school experience had scanted the canon or skipped it entirely.
Almost two decades ago, Earl Shorris, a novelist and journalist, told the editor at his publishing house that he wanted to write a book about poverty in America.
The editor, to his credit, said that he didn’t want just another book describing the problem. He wanted a solution.
So Shorris, who had attended the University of Chicago on a scholarship many years before and who was greatly influenced by its Great Books curriculum, hit upon the idea of teaching the core texts of Western civilization to people living in poverty, whose school experience had scanted the canon or skipped it entirely.
His Eureka moment came when he was visiting a prison and conducting interviews for another book he was planning to write.
He asked one of the women at New York’s Bedford Hills maximum security prison why she thought the poor were poor.
“Because they don’t have the moral life of downtown,” shereplied. “What do you mean by the moral life?” Shorris asked.
“You got to begin with the children . . . ,” she said. “You’ve got to teach the moral life of downtown to the children.
And the way you do that, Earl, is by taking them downtown to plays, museums, concerts, lectures.”
He asked whether she meant the humanities. Looking at him as if he were, as he puts it, “the stupidest man on earth,” she replied: “Yes, Earl, the humanities.”
Poverty, Shorris concluded, was a condition that required more than jobs or money to put right. So he set out to offer the “moral life” as well. Beginning with a class of 25 or so students found through a social service agency in New York, Shorris—along with a few professors he had recruited—taught literature, art history and philosophy. The first classes included readings in Plato, Aristotle, Thucydides and Sophocles.
Thus was born the Clemente Course in the Humanities, which is now the recipient of broad philanthropic support.
It is offered to the poor in more than 20 cities around the United States, as well as in other countries, from South Korea to Canada.
“The Art of Freedom” is a narrative of the program’s founding experience as well as a meditation on the Western classics and their effects on readers.
The book, sadly, appears posthumously. Shorris died last year at the age of 75.
The idea of the Clemente Course—named for Roberto Clemente, the baseball player who gave his name to the Manhattan community center where the course debuted—was to “educate a self-selected group of adults living in poverty,” in classes taught by professors from nearby colleges and universities.
The spirit of the Great Books program was a key part of the idea: There would be no chasing after trendy reading lists or narrow relevance. When Shorris went to recruit students in the South Bronx, in New York City, a white social worker asked him if he were going to teach African history. “No,” he said. “We will teach American history. Of course the history of black people is very important in the development of the United States.”
Over time, Shorris began to add texts from the various cultures where the course was being offered—Native American myths, South Korean novels.
But his focus on the Western classics was refreshingly relentless. He was accused of “cultural imperialism,” but the charge didn’t seem to faze him.
The Clemente Course now taught in Darfur, in the Sudan, teaches John Stuart Mill’s “On Liberty.”
Shorris had no patience for mediocrity in his project and insisted on only the best professors to teach Clemente’s classes. When he had to find staff to teach in Chicago, he writes, “neither Chicago State nor the nearby community college . . . were up to the standards of the Clemente Course.”
In the classes he taught, he addressed his students with “Mr.” or “Ms.” He believed that a proper form of address conveys dignity and avoids the kind of casual relationship that most universities want their students and professors to have.
The Clemente Course differs from life at universities in other ways—for instance, by taking the Western classics seriously. How many college graduates have read Plato, Aristotle, Thucydides and Mill?
It also differs in its sense of what the texts can do.
Much of the liberal arts curriculum in universities today is devoted to learning about oppression of one sort or another, but Shorris argued that the study of the humanities is a fundamentally optimistic endeavor.
Not that Clemente texts are routinely cheery or anodyne.
Shorris himself taught Dostoevsky, “the brilliant archeologist who dared to make us look deep into our dark sides.” But Shorris did feel that, by reading and discussing classic texts, life was better or richer in some fundamental sense: more valued, more hopeful, more free.
One way that the humanities can help the poor in particular, according to Shorris, is by making them more “political.
” But, he writes, “I don’t mean ‘political’ in the sense of voting in an election, but in the way Pericles used the word: to mean activity with other people at every level, from the family to the neighborhood to the broader community to the city-state.”
The humanities, he tells his first class, “are a foundation for getting along in the world, for thinking, for learning to reflect on the world instead of just reacting to whatever force is turned against you.”
Shorris recounts the story of a young man in his first class—a 24-year-old with a history of violent behavior—who called him describing how a woman at work had provoked him. “She made me so mad, I wanted to smack her up against the wall.
I tried to talk to some friends to calm myself down a little, but nobody was around.” Shorris asked him what he did, “fearing this was his one telephone call from the city jail.” Instead, he told Shorris, “I asked myself, ‘What would Socrates do?’ ”
This article once again makes the point of how simple and deep education should be. Our efforts at Monticello College are inspired by the work of people such as Earl Shorris, Louise Cowan (a great educator and founding fellow of the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture), Viniece Walker (the insightful Bedford prison inmate) and the hundreds of other Liberal Arts advocates who understand the vital necessity of the classics to our culture and our civilization.
Are technology and education merging or fighting each other? This post explores how business development and disruptive innovation impacts education.
15 years ago Clayton Christensen published a best selling book entitled The Innovator’s Dilemma.
Christensen is considered a leader in the field of business development especially in times of vast technological advancement and improvement.
Christensen explores the phenomenon of why firms fail despite being leaders in their market, willing and able to compete with the best, and capable of continuous innovations within their industry.
He explains the differences between what he calls “sustaining technologies” and “disruptive innovations.”
“Sustaining technological changes” are not the problem for leaders in an industry. Time and time again, they showed their ability to compete in the high end of their market, innovating and at times dealing with radical technological changes.
And because these are sustaining innovations, these improvements are almost always best utilized by the firms that already have a prominent position in an industry.
New businesses attempting to compete by means of these sorts of innovations often fail, because the established firms nearly always have more money, more established relationships with clients, a better reputation, and more technological prowess in the market. According to Christensen, “the leaders of an industry don’t fail because they become passive, arrogant, or risk-averse or because they can’t keep up with the stunning rate of technological change.”
Industry giants only face real trouble when it comes to what are called “disruptive innovations” – these are the changes that topple industry leaders.
These are not radical improvements – quite the contrary, disruptive innovations are usually innovations that are either so inexpensive that they open a new market, or start in a niche that the industry doesn’t care about because it’s too small.
Under the radar disruptive technology often grows faster than users’ needs and with time catches up to and surpasses the more high-end or mainstream technologies that are the domain of industry leaders.
An example that has nothing to do with “high tech” comes from the mechanical excavator industry. This industry was dominated by “steam powered,” “cable driven” mechanical shovels until the 1920’s, when gasoline powered engines began to replace them.
This was, however, not a disruptive innovation but a sustaining one. The design of the machines changed radically from that of a steam-powered engine moving a system of cables, to that of a gasoline engine driving a system to extend and retract the cables connected to the bucket.
The new engines were more capable than the old ones, and were better at doing more work more reliably, and cheaper than the old system.
But even though the power source changed and the machine design improved, it was still a cable technology driven machine, so despite the radical change in the industry, the same firms that were strongest in steam shovels stayed on top.
The disruptive change came with the introduction of hydraulics after World War II.
The new hydraulic-actuated systems (replacing the network of physical cables)—a change that eliminated nearly all of the established players by about 1970—opened the door for new untried companies willing to take a chance on this new radical technology.
The first hydraulic-based excavators were less capable than the cable systems that were in existence, and certainly couldn’t compete with them. However, they were small enough that they could be deployed for jobs previously done by hand, opening up a new market, in which the desired attributes were quite different from the big jobs that the cable actuated excavators were used for.
The technology involved in hydraulics continued to improve, however, and with time eventually equaled and then surpassed the needs formerly filled by cable-based systems.
While all of this new innovation was going on, the established firms were still going strong, and didn’t take much notice, if any, of the new technology or the new businesses using it (the newcomers were not considered competition as they could not compete with the big industries existing client base).
Suddenly, so it seemed, (really a period of a decade or two) the new arrivals were “in the midst of the mainstream market.”
By the time the established companies realized what was happening and introduced their own hydraulics it was too late, and the fledging businesses that had appeared to be of no account were better positioned with the new technology.*
Moving from the world of mechanical improvements into our universe of high tech, Clayton Christensen had this to say about disruptive technologies in a March 2013 Wired Magazine interview:
Howe (interviewer): If you had to list some industries right now that are either in a state of disruptive crisis or will be soon, what would they be?
Christensen: Journalism, certainly, and publishing broadly. Anything supported by advertising. That all of this is being disrupted is now beyond question.
And then I think higher education is just on the edge of the crevasse. Generally, universities are doing very well financially, so they don’t feel from the data that their world is going to collapse.
But I think even five years from now these enterprises are going to be in real trouble.
Howe: Why is higher education vulnerable?
Christensen: The availability of online learning. It will take root in its simplest applications, then just get better and better. You know, Harvard Business School doesn’t teach accounting anymore, because there’s a a guy out of BYU whose online accounting course is so good. He is extraordinary, and our accounting faculty, on average, is average.
Howe: What happens to all our institutions of advanced learning?
Christensen: Some will survive. Most will evolve hybrid models, in which universities license some courses from an online provider like Coursera but then provide more-specialized courses in person. Hybrids are actually a principle regardless of industry. If you want to use a new technology in a mainstream existing market, it has to be a hybrid. It’s like the electric car.
If you want to have a viable electric car, you have to ask if there is a market where the customers want a car that won’t go far or fast. The answer is, parents of teenagers would love to put their teens in a car that won’t go far or fast. Little by little, the technology will emerge to take it on longer trips. But if you want to have this new technology employed on the California freeways right now, it has to be a hybrid like a Prius, where you take the best of the old with the best of the new.
Monticello College is certainly not a disruptive technology, nor will we be competing with large universities any time soon. But we are positioned perfectly to take advantage of emerging disruptive technologies and we do occupy a unique niche and employ the hybrid concept creatively.
We believe that just like the bursting of the 2008 real estate bubble, there exists a higher education “tuition” bubble and that over the next five to ten years it will burst creating a real crisis for higher education. Our business model and academic structure is designed to accommodate these coming changes and provide stability and high quality liberal education for decades to come.
*Thanks to www.squeezedbooks.com