Mon, 6 May 2019
At the 30th reunion of the class of 1989 of Phillips Exeter Academy, of which Liz is a member, there gathered to discuss goodness and knowledge in education at Exeter a panel of classmates who've gone on to become educators--in the order appearing on this podcast a professor of computer science and artificial intelligence, a physician who teaches medical residents, a professor of English and Zen priest, a professor of political theory, and two current members of the Exeter faculty, one an instructor in health and human development, and the other the chaplain of the school.
The quality of the audio varies person to person. Here's how to scroll though if you like: Todd Neller is at 5:00; Ming-Hui Fan is at 16:00; Bernie Rhie is at 25:00; Jacob is at 37:06; Brandon Thomas is at 52:07; Heidi Carington-Heath is at 58:27; and Chris Artzer asks a fantastic question at 1:04:20.
Here's the prompt:
John Phillips wrote in his deed of gift: “Above all, it is expected that the attention of the instructors to the disposition of the minds and morals of the youth under their charge will exceed every other care; well considering that goodness without knowledge is weak and feeble, yet knowledge without goodness is dangerous, and that both united form the noblest character, and lay the surest foundation of usefulness to mankind.
An old document, this is currently featured on the Exeter website so continues to be a lodestar. How is it put into practice, though?
Complicating it is the fact that John Phillips was a religious man, a Calvinist, and therefore likely comfortable using such value-laden terms as “goodness,” probably even with a clear sense of what “goodness” consists of.
Complicating it further is that Phillips founded the academy that it might “ever be equally open to youth of requisite qualifications from every quarter.” So, the conundrum confounding the modern West is written right into the deed of gift, thus making Exeter a microcosm: in a multi-cultural setting where classic liberal values are paramount, how do we understand what goodness even is?
As an educator, do you feel it as part of your duty to impart “goodness” as you impart knowledge?
If not, why not? Whence comes goodness into the world if not through education?
If so, what do you understand “goodness” to be? Whence comes your own, if you think of yourself as “good”? As regards your students, how do you impart “goodness” and how do you measure your success at this?
As graduates, do you remember “goodness” being a part of your education here? If so, how did it come into the frame? If not, did you “miss” it? Where might it have fit?