Thursday, February 04, 2010

Liberal Cereal and Study Abroad Amended

Here is an actual conversation between some friends of ours:

Husband: What is this cereal?
Wife: It's Cinnamon Harvest, for my diet.
Husband: But why are you eating liberal cereal?
Wife: Huh? What?
Husband: It's organic liberal cereal.
Wife: Oh. Lisa gave it to me.
Husband: Well, there you go. She voted for Obama.

Yes, this is an actual conversation that occurred recently. I wasn't aware that a cereal could have political leanings, but evidently it does.

Now, the husband in this tale is not some mouth-breathing, slack-jawed dullard who rambles the aisles of the local Wal-mart in a tattered Gamecocks t-shirt. He has a advanced professional degree and currently works in a demanding and competitive field.

So, humble readers, what is his problem?

The main problem is that he hasn't really lived or traveled out of this rural community.

One area that will probably emerge from Coker's strategic plan is the need for increased, if not mandatory, study abroad/study away. With most (upwards of 70%) of our students coming from less than 45 minutes away from campus -- from some of the most rural and under-performing school districts in the state and thus the country -- the need to have the students see the world (or at least a different part of our country) is extremely important for growth.

I was fortunate to attend an awards dinner for our past and present study abroad scholarship winners. Most had never been abroad and all were deeply moved by their experiences. The problem is cost -- these trips routinely cost $1000-3000 (at least) depending on the length of the trip. Perhaps if we build that cost into tuition and send a large percentage outside of expensive Europe (South America perhaps), we could expand participation in these programs.

Back to my friend. Not surprisingly, he isn't a big reader, either. I asked what books he had read lately and he kind of shrugged. I expected him to say Left Behind, but he didn't even go there.

Knowledge and learning aren't stressed here very highly, despite our friend's seemingly high level of education. People tend to look down on others that are worldly or well-read.

How do we change this mindset? How do we get people to read for pleasure, to acquire intellectual curiosity?

It starts at home and complemented by formal education.

But until that time, our national reputation becomes a punchline: