What’s the future of education? It’s a popular question right now, with answers ranging from online learning to charter schools. But Liz Coleman is focused on a more fundamental issue: what will schools teach? And what does that mean for the future of our society? In her eye-opening talk at TED2009, Coleman shared her hopes […]Continue reading
Why you should listen
If you followed higher education news in the 1990s, you have an opinion on Liz Coleman. The president of what was once the most expensive college in America, Coleman made a radical, controversial plan to snap the college out of a budget and mission slump -- by ending the tenure system, abolishing academic divisions and yes, firing a lot of professors. It was not a period without drama. But fifteen years on, it appears that the move has paid off. Bennington's emphasis on cross-disciplinary, hands-on learning has attracted capacity classes to the small college, and has built a vibrant environment for a new kind of learning.
Coleman's idea is that higher education is an active pursuit -- a performing art. Her vision calls for lots of one-on-one interactions between professor and student, deep engagement with primary sources, highly individual majors, and the destruction of the traditional academic department. It's a lofty goal that takes plenty of hard work to keep on course.
What others say
"There’s a reason Liz Coleman likens science to a 'performing art' at Bennington. We need a context for what goes on in the classroom; otherwise there's no understanding of history, of how scientific fact emerges in the first place." — Elizabeth Sherman, Bennington College faculty
Liz Coleman’s TED talks
Liz Coleman on the TED Blog
Bennington president Liz Coleman delivers a call-to-arms for radical reform in higher education. Bucking the trend to push students toward increasingly narrow areas of study, she proposes a truly cross-disciplinary education — one that dynamically combines all areas of study to address the great problems of our day. (Recorded at TED2009, February 2009, in Long […]Continue reading
Ethan Zuckerman is blogging live from TED2009, and has the latest from the very last session of the conference, “Engage.” In one entry, he shares his memory of being a student at Bennington College when Liz Coleman was appointed president, while she speaks on educational reform. Here’s an excerpt: “In 1993, Coleman eliminated presumptive tenure […]Continue reading