I have previously stated by deep and real love for Howard Gardner, the cognitive psychologist out of Harvard University who is
doing some great things in just about all of my areas of interest. My most recent avowal of love for him is for his ability to introduce me to another figure I think I could really dig: the French political economist Jean Monnet. Nope, the name in this blog’s title isn’t a misspelling of either Monet or Manet. Rather, it is a shout-out to an international figure who worked behind the scenes to foster European unity at a time where no one was aiming for it. If his title sounds unusual, it’s likely because he made it up. He prided himself on the fact that “I have never taken a job that I myself did not invent.” That’s a level of innovation and creativity that I can’t help but admire from the office in which I work, in the field in which I work. To that end, I want to drop a tidbit of what I saw as pure brilliance, from the mouth of Monnet himself:
“If there was stiff competition around the centers of power, there was practically none in the area where I wanted to work- preparing the future.”
I don’t know of a more accurate way to encapsulate the state in which higher education has found itself. We compete fiercely for equal footing with faculty, determined to adapt our practices and credentials for what’s happening right now. And while we’re talking about the future of our field more and more, present operational alternatives are being thought of in much the same mindset as the one in which our imperfections arose.
Sometimes you need to hear dissent. Sometimes the devil’s advocate needs to be welcomed; the term “Devil’s Advocate” (pardon the word choice) demonizes the alternate viewpoint, and that’s not always appropriate or even helpful. And the Higher Ed Open Mic that took place last night was a great way for several devil’s advocates to be patted on the back.
While I can’t even begin to encapsulate the thought provoking things that came from last night’s speakers, Karlyn Borsenko was kind enough to do it this morning- she Storified the evening here. Other things that struck me as exciting about this style of event:
This was a group of people unafraid of a variety of influences. Scholarly works, presentations, and other displays of knowledge in higher education aren’t always appreciated if they’re informed by the work of other professions. This informal environment allowed for a freedom to apply general understanding to a crowd eager to learn, irrespective of the industry of origin. That’s pretty cool.
The environment was one of freedom. No slides, no podiums, no fixed presenters or norms of scholarly speaking. And know what? It was no problem. You know that moment where you sometimes want to curse in the office, but realize the tenor of the environment is holding you back? Open mics don’t have that. Thoughts flowed freely, eloquently, occasionally profanely but always authentically. And is that frankness that I sometimes miss in my office, but absolutely felt on Wednesday night.
Don’t take it all too seriously. While there were any number of equally insightful hilarious moments in the evening, I’ll share my favorite.
Eric Stoller (@ericstoller) to Joel Pettigrew (@therealjoelp): This guy used to be a POLAR BEAR on Twitter!
[Joel starts laughing.]
Me: You’re not now?
Me: Really? Since when?!
Again, the Storify will reveal the hilarity that came alongside the knowledge provided. But the presentations were fun. I don’t know about you, but I don’t say that nearly as often as I could about a lot of the professional development opportunities I partake in. We all work on finding palatable, engaging and entertaining ways to help students learn. Where’s the harm in doing that for ourselves?
I don’t know if the Higher Ed Open Mic will become a fixture (hey, Eduventures, I think you should!), but I know that it was one of the more memorable learning opportunities I’ve had in recent months, and I hope that there will be more like it!