Wednesday, November 09, 2005

From Josh Hilgart


Thank you so much for this incredibly thoughtful collection of information and observations; you really delivered a wonderfully vivid and thorough service.


Hello to everybody I know - for those who don't I finished with Sarah in Oxford (and started a year earlier). Too bad we come together on such somber news, whatever the wisdom of the move.

I will forward on this report to a few people I'm still in touch with and also want to thank Sarah for offering to voice the concerns of the absent. My initial reaction is that the move is a bad idea. In fact, I think it could seal Shimer's fate as an attractive appendage to a mundane experience instead of catapulting the college into national prominence, which I believe is possible with more money and good marketing.

On finding independent solutions and a good marketing angle, I'm stumped too. But I'm thinking that it's worth exploring what big money is out there that has a Shimer-sized hole it wants to fill. More explicitly, are there uncorrupted sources of funding that are looking to create a discourse that Shimer is primed to facilitate?

Because I work in lefty politics, I can think of liberal funders who are sick of both parties and would love to grow a political curriculum markedly different from the status quo (which these days consists of learning how to write sound-bytes that won’t be taken out of context and that red is a bad color for a yard sign). Shimer is the perfect ground to plant a new school of government that assumes rational discourse to be a priority instead of whatever monster now dictates policy-making dynamics. The ends are the means in democracy, right?

But there are other models too - music, community engagement, theater, applied public science, and, of course, pedagogy/education. There are probably a number of financial interests who want to foster programs that: 1) currently have no dialectical program of merit; 2) would require an existing home base like Shimer in order to foster the goals of the donors; 3) could flourish without altering Shimer's mission one iota.

In politics I can think of a number of funders who together could invest the tiny amount of money needed to guarantee Shimer can soldier on at least comfortably. Once you expand into other areas, the number of potential donors jumps.

Does this sound rational to folks? I think Shimer could become the # 1 school for clever high school students who know they want to work on community building, or getting rid of card-board cutouts in government, or encouraging critical thinking in public education, or approaching music as a cultural and scientific artifact as much as an artistic one.

Of course, students wouldn’t have to enroll in such a school in order to attend Shimer. And while I realize there are good programs budding out there already, none would be quite the same as the Shimer version.

- Josh Hilgart

No comments :