Ford questions classroom: Where is the
By biconews On 8 Feb, 2000 At 05:00 AM | Categorized As Archives | With 0 Comments

By Anthony Fleg

I came to Haverford with no idea what my college education was going to encompass.

According to the College’s Statement of Purpose, the school has a “concern for individual growth where the academic program is deepened by its spiritual, moral, and ethical dimensions.” Seven semesters later I think about this promise and can’t help but feel cheated. If this really is the foundation on which this school is supposed to rest, Haverford must be floating in thin air. Sure, we want to build on more and more levels to this institution, with a grand science building as the first of the sparkling additions, but it seems like bad carpentry to avoid the decaying substructure below.

Where is this spiritual dimension, for instance? Taking the academic approach, I found “spirituality” defined in the dictionary as “of, or pertaining to, the spirit or soul: incorporeal.” I can safely say that this school neither stands for nor promotes anything so profound. In fact, the only class that has elicited and encouraged me to come to the table as a person, and not simply a cerebral being of reason, was a non-credit class taught by a local doctor.

In this class I realized that it wasn’t some fringe benefit that I was missing in my spiritless Haver-learning, instead, there is something in me, a huge part of me in fact, that has become conditioned to hide itself when I step into a classroom. My spirit, as well as those of my classmates and professors, remains neatly tucked away as we concentrate on that “real learning.” More than just feeling disappointed by all of this, having missed the opportunity of that promised education deepened by spirituality, I feel misguided. Misguided to think that intellectual knowledge is the means to enlightenment.

I think Haverfortd fails miserably as a school, faculty and administration to show a “concern for individual growth” unless we define an individual as an academic entity. I see only academic growth as a priority of this school - how many professors have been concerned with “you” the thinking, emotional, social and soulful being, and not simply “you” the student? And don’t even get me started on morals we seem as negligent on this aspect of growth as is conceivable (unless you think that unproctored exams which tell us that cheating is bad are the apex of moral instruction).

I don’t mean to bash away here, and I don’t care to attack Haverford for its downfalls. I feel, however, that learning should focus on the rearing of all of our realms as a community of students, faculty and staff. If we are, in addition to being thinkers, emotional and religious beings (I claim that all people live by religion, whether their beliefs are Agnostic, Muslim or Indifferent), then our growth should include all of these realms.

It is interesting that little more than a century ago, the elite schools of higher learning (the Ivy League schools) maintained as a central goal a climate of moral and spiritual growth. Oh, how far we’ve advanced from that medieval state!

Consider also the Eastern perspective, namely that Eastern thought/wisdom regards intellectual knowledge as nothing short of a lowered state of consciousness. What a lost way of thinking, right? I think, if nothing else, these examples serve as a wakeup call for us to consider what it is that we truly desire and seek in our education. Haver-learning or something more? Haverford is one very small part of a very big world, and if we are the true pluralists that we claim to be, we would be wise to see what goes on beyond our 300-acre “elite” estate. Knowing friends at a Christian school, I can safely say (as a non-Christian) that they are in a learning environment far more complete and valuable than we are at Haverford - imagine a school with morally-based rules for living, and academic professors willingly serving as spiritual resources/advisors to students. I think that sometimes, our place on some meaningless list of school rankings infuses us with a sense of arrogance and confidence such that we fail to critically think about what we want and need if Haverford were to one day live up to its boasting become truly “elite.”

I hope that in some small way I have helped you towards your path of Enlightenment and that you’ll seek a true form of learning in the rest of your time here.

“Character plus intelligence, that is the goal of a true education.”

Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr.

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