Marley Amico – Contributing Writer
Americans are stupid. Across the globe, this stereotype permeates the minds of citizens. To an extent, this stereotype is warranted. The rigor it takes to earn an American high school diploma pales in comparison to the harshness of the French Baccalauréat or the German Abitur.
In a regular American high school diploma program, senior year is often considered the ‘easy’ year. Students focus on building relationships with their teachers, making memories with their friends, and skipping morning classes due to senioritis. While students need to earn their diploma in order to graduate and need to maintain good grades to attend college, senior year is typically low pressure.
The American culture of learning is student-focused. Especially in the senior year of high school, students have the opportunity to focus on themselves and their interests, and build relationships with those around them. This is undeniably important in entering the university, as it is crucial for students to be comfortable and confident in their interests, their talents, and their real life skills. As Fareed Zakaria states in his book, In Defense of a Liberal Education, even though Americans notoriously score lower than other countries on the academic portion of international intelligence exams such as the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), they demonstrate a much higher level of confidence in their abilities than students in countries that score very well on the academic portion. Many argue that the ability to believe in oneself or have a sense of ‘self-concept’ is an admirable characteristic that is valuable to have in the workplace.
American students are encouraged to pursue the topics that interest them and to hone in on their extracurricular talents. American students consistently focus on learning skills that are external to academic curricula, real-life skills that can never be replaced by machines or computerized programs. Focusing on extracurricular skills gives students exposure to well-roundedness, something that is necessary in order to gain skills like balance and time management.
The American education system invites students to challenge the ideas they are learning in class, even if it means challenging teachers or other students. This gives students critical thinking skills, which many employers argue is an important skill that leads to more creative and innovative solutions to the problems that plague our society.
Indeed, the American education system may not provide the most academically rigorous nor the most well respected diploma programs in the world. However, the skills that American students are learning in the classroom are real-world skills that are truly valuable–abilities such as time management, balance, critical thinking, and confidence. Many employers are finding these skills more valuable than memorizing an equation or knowing facts about a particular subject, which are tasks that can now be accomplished by a computer. The American culture of learning fosters creative, innovative and productive students who will continue to succeed in the employment world.
Drew Editorial Board
The American Council on Education reports that the average tenure of a university president is eight and a half years. In light of President MaryAnn Baenninger’s inauguration, we have a few suggestions on how to improve Drew. Because the editorial staff at The Drew Acorn is full of optimists, we have a few policy proposals for the next decade.
The first big change we want to see in the next decade is a change to the smoking policy on campus. Over the past five years, we have seen an increase in the number of smokers on campus, and the amount of irresponsible smoking has increased as well. From Tolley-Brown Circle to HoytBury to Brothers College, cigarette butts littering the ground seem to be as commonplace as fallen acorns. We at The Drew Acorn propose a three-pronged approach to this problem. First, we advocate for more smoking prevention education on campus. Second, we believe that designated smoking sites are important. While people have the right to smoke, they do not have the right to smoke any closer than 25 feet away from any campus building. Third, we think that smokers should not be allowed to smoke on the path. Oftentimes, the wind blows cigarette smoke into non-consenting individuals’ faces. We do not think that this is fair.
Additionally, we want to see better treatment of transfer students, especially in regards to orientation. A junior transferring into Drew in the same orientation as first-years does not benefit from forming bonds with their fellow classmates in the same manner. Most of first-year orientation consists of bonding exercises and icebreakers, which many transfer students do not want to be a part of. Having a separate orientation for transfer students would eliminate the awkwardness of entering a new university, allowing them to connect with students in the same situation.
Moreover, sometime in the next decade we need to be more accommodating of high school Advanced Placement (AP) course credit. As Drew becomes more academically competitive in the next decade, as indicated by our lower acceptance rate and growth of the Baldwin Honors Program, we will have more students admitted with AP credit. Many students pay for AP tests in high school in hopes that the credits apply. While some courses (such as Psych 101) do transfer over, most are just considered general credit. We need to make Drew more AP-friendly to lure high-achieving students to the university.
Furthermore, we want the Forest to continue to remain as natural as possible. Last year, the Mead Meadow was moved practically overnight and with little explanation. We mow grass that does not require weekly mowing, as the grass isn’t growing as fast as it’s being mowed. This mowing produces a double whammy, additionally adding air pollution that can be totally avoided. There needs to be a balance struck between looking neat and looking like a forest. Unfortunately, we are concerned that our University in the Forest is turning into a concrete jungle.
Overall, we at The Drew Acorn want more transparency from the administration. Baenninger’s letter explaining tuition increases this summer was a great start. However, we want to know why other administrative decisions are made. Although we have asked repeatedly, we still don’t know why some departments were funded last semester, and some were not. We also do not know why we have moved away from tenure-track faculty. Ultimately, we just want to know more. These decisions affect the student body, and thus we feel the Drew community has a right to know.
Finally, we want to congratulate Baenninger on her inauguration. We are optimistic about the future. However, these issues on campus can no longer be swept under the rug. We expect the next “Drewcade” to be fruitful, productive and bold.
Jared Sutton – Opinions Editor
“Demos,” the Greek word for “village,” is the central root to one of the most important words in the English language: democracy. Each and everyday, denizens of Drew and in the larger United States employ some form of democracy. In our everyday lives, we make usage of the term. Consider, for example, a group of friends want to go out to eat. Oftentimes, the group will vote, and the restaurant with the most votes (likely Chipotle) will receive the business.
While we use this form and other simple forms of democracy in our day-to-day experiences, we fail to take advantage of them in formal settings, whether it be for Drew Student Government, U.S. Congress, U.S. Senate, local municipalities, or President. While your right to vote is also accompanied with the guarantee that you have the right not to vote, exercising your right to vote is extremely important.
For a microcosm of this, let’s examine Drew Student Government. The past two races for the Class of 2019 and Class of 2018 have had wide voter turnout, and that’s great. However, all four classes consistently gripe about the Commons, the gym, the residence halls (I’m looking at you, first years), and scheduling for certain classes. However, instead of voting, or, better yet, running, a general apathy toward the endeavours of Student Government persist.
Fun fact: Did you know that students can sit in on Student Government meetings? Because Drew Student Government does not have a TV station (which I’m sure all of you would watch), it opens its meetings to the public. Drew University students, an extremely vocal community, have the ability to interject (when professional and appropriate, of course) and let their concerns be heard. This mirrors the real-life Senate and Congress, and more people should take advantage of advocating for policy objectives they believe in.
Now, let’s take this on a much larger scale: according to the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning & Engagement (CIRCLE), only 41 percent of eligible voters ages 18-24 voted in the 2012 presidential election. Worse, only 21.5 percent of the same demographic voted in the 2014 midterm elections. For a generation so obsessed with social media statuses and tweets about our views, getting out and voting may have a stronger impact. Unfortunately, many view voting as futile. Commonly, many assume that their one vote does not make a difference. While many (including myself) struggle with this, it is better than doing nothing at all. Although voting is not the pinnacle of political engagement, it is typically a key first step to something bigger.
Taking critical first steps to become more involved in the world that shapes us is vitally important. However, without becoming politically involved, whether it is on campus or otherwise, the potential for continued discontentment is a likely continuity.
An inauguration is not really about a president but about the university or college that she leads. That is one of the reasons why I decided that we would hold Drew University’s inauguration after I finished my first year. Waiting allowed me to get to know Drew and its community members in a real way, not based solely on my own preconceived notions. One year into my presidency, I feel qualified to lead the university toward a future that is a combination of its existing strengths and what I can bring as a leader with specific talents and experiences of my own.
When people ask me where Drew University is headed in the near and distant future—in this case I was asked to write about the next 100 days—I always begin with where the University is now and what distinctive qualities it has to offer to today’s students. These qualities are ones that must set us apart from the competition. After a year at Drew three qualities ring clear to me, and they apply to all three schools. Faculty-student relationships here are deep, meaningful, and life long. They start with teaching and mentoring, and are enhanced and reinforced in Drew’s outside-the-classroom learning experiences like research, civic engagement, the New York semesters, internships, study abroad, supervised ministry, practicum placements, and artistic creations, performance, and athletics. Together faculty-student relationships and experiences manifest themselves in, and are enhanced by, our deep engagement with the Borough of Madison and the cities of New York and Newark.
On the other hand, Drew University hasn’t been quite as good at creating organizational systems, spaces, structures, and processes that support the learning environment that I described above. Nor have we been great at shouting from the rooftops about our academic strengths.
In the next 100 days we will build on some of the successes that we’ve had in the past year, successes that either allow students and faculty to be supported in their endeavors, or that make “living” on campus, for both resident and commuting students, as pleasant and supportive as possible.
We will expand the resources now present in the Vivian A. Bull Academic Commons to a new STEM Resource Center in the Hall of Sciences. We will make significant progress in an architectural plan to renovate the Dining Commons, and enter into a new food vendor contract, with the ultimate goal of rising very high in the dining rankings. We will continue work on our administrative structure to make sure that we are working efficiently and smartly to remove any barriers from learning. Lastly we will focus on media and marketing that tell the community and prospective students about our strengths in ways that will increase “buzz” about Drew. All of these things will have a “spiral up” effect: further increased retention and admission numbers in all three schools, solidify university finances, and put us on the path to a shining future.
Colleen Heaney -Burcher – Assistant Opinions Editor
In the weeks after Caitlyn Jenner made her Vogue cover debut, a New York Times article entitled What Makes a Woman? by Elinor Burkett was published. It poses the argument that transgender women cannot truly identify themselves as such because they have not lived in a woman’s body long enough to experience the same trials as cisgender women.
Burkett says that “People who haven’t lived their whole lives as women… shouldn’t get to define us.” Why should Elinor Burkett, a 68 year old cisgender white woman, be able to define “us” and no one else? She even says so herself, by noting that “Their truth is not my truth. Their female identities are not my female identity.” So why the backlash against Caitlyn Jenner and other transgender females creating their own female identity?
The reason is simple: to Burkett, she feels threatened by the idea that a new wave of transgender women will redefine the public’s view of womanhood. She saw Jenner’s Vogue cover shoot and thought that Jenner’s sexed up idea of a woman pushed the feminist movement back a few steps. Burkett doesn’t think that women should degrade themselves by embracing their sexuality. But what she fails to acknowledge is that 21st century feminism is inclusive and works to build women up for their brand of sexuality rather than shame a woman for feeling good about herself.
Burkett runs circles around herself by contradicting everything she says. She believes that no one can define the female identity except an individual, but when this individual defines their female identity she doesn’t like it. I liken it to a dog chasing it’s tail and not understanding why it keeps running away. Confusion and anger is likely to follow. Human beings have a tendency to dislike what they don’t understand.
So what makes a woman? For every person you ask I guarantee you will receive a world of different answers. Some might say being a woman means having children, others may say that womanhood is strength and confidence. Burkett is right in one thing. There is no one way to define a woman. There are so many different types of women with wholly different experiences. To put everyone into a tiny box would be unfair.
What should be taken out of this is that there is no right or wrong way to be a woman. Your experiences and trials define who you are as a woman, as a human being. Life is what you make it.
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