This is something I’ve wanted to do for a very long time.
I’ve jumped into honors seminars off and on at different places I’ve worked over the past two decades of my career. I’ve even helped run an honors seminar or two, including a specific honors seminar at Virginia Intermont College in the Fall of 2013 – the year before Virginia Intermont College closed – on testing and the future of education.
All of those seminars, though, have been closed affairs. We’ve read books before class, and we’ve had discussions over what’s been in those books and our own experiences in class, and that’s been it.
They’ve all been very fulfilling discussions – the wonderful thing about honors seminars is that you always have fulfilling discussions over very weighty things. But you want for those discussions to be something a little bit more.
This website is an experiment in “more.”
I’m having the best semester I’ve ever had in an honors seminar so far. With so much love and respect to other students I’ve had in these circumstances in the past, I’m getting to know a group of ten this semester as well as I’ve ever known a group in an honors seminar (yes, even in the midst of COVID-19!). And the discussions we’ve had in class have been SPECTACULAR – the very ideal of the type of discussions you’d like to have in an honors class.
So this is the perfect class to take some of those discussions and turn them public.
We’re going to introduce ourselves to you, as a whole class, one at a time. I’ll follow behind because I’m the professor for this class, sure, and I’ve been through a bit of this educational history a couple of times before, but in many ways I’m in the same boat as these students. I teach physics and chemistry, not education or sociology, and I’m hardly an expert in the issues that emerge when standardized testing is considered seriously and when the full implications are drawn out.
The main book we’re reading right now as a class (after reading a Very Short Introduction to education) is Nicholas Lemann’s The Big Test, which explains how the SAT came to the prominent place in American life it achieved in the 20th century. We’re introducing ourselves to you by talking about our experiences with standardized testing, and the influences it has had on our education. We’re going to see where this conversation takes us as we go.
Welcome to our class. We’re glad you’re dropping in.