Valuing Contingency: Educating Towards A Sense of Possibility – Mar 3

The University Seminar on Innovation in Education 

The University Seminar on Ethics, Moral Education, and Society

Valuing Contingency:

Educating Towards A Sense of Possibility 
Speaker: Maxine McClintock, Ph.D.
Independent Scholar
Kindly RSVP to reserve a​  and
Please bring this invitation and a photo ID for admission to the building.
Monday, March 3, 2014
7:00-9:00 pm
Faculty House, Columbia University
(see address and location below)

Maxine McClintock will discuss her purposes and key themes from her recently published book, Letters of Recommendation. The book presents a conversation about educational aspirations through a fictional exchange of letters. The title hints at the angst students and their parents feel about getting accepted by college, employer, and the world at large.  But that’s the backdrop.  A girl, Emilia, who appears to be among the best and the brightest of her senior class, asks an admired teacher, Doc, for a letter of recommendation supporting her early admission to a top college.  The book starts as Emilia withdraws her request, beginning to doubt where life is leading her, and why, and what she really wants to do.  Doc senses the importance of her concerns and responds to them.  Letters result, back and forth throughout the school year, with subtle attention to Emilia’s emerging sense of self and Doc’s presence, both humane and professional.
Letters depicts what goes on as good education takes place.  It affirms a student’s self-reliance in the face of felt uncertainties.  It also affirms a teacher’s trust that her presence as a full, human person has value and meaning in carrying on the work of education.  The letters themselves don’t exemplify an instructional method; they are a literary device for concentrating the reader’s attention on the inner life of a student and her teacher.  The letters create a pedagogic dialog.  And situating the dialog in an elite private school isn’t meant to celebrate the rich and the famous.  It’s a way to set aside all the material complications, which intrude in our lives and make it difficult to concentrate on what’s essential–essential, not only for the few, but for all of us.
“In writing Letters of Recommendation, I distill reflections about education gathered over the course of a full career teaching in high school and college for over 35 years.  For the last half of my career I taught history at the Trinity School, one of New York City’s elite private schools. This experience convinces me that the challenges in education are not so much the instrumental questions of how to achieve the external goals people associate with schooling, but ones concerning the personal formation of purposes and life expectations. I look forward to conversing with participants in the seminar about why these dimensions of education are so important, and so difficult.”
You can find a statement of key themes, indication of intended audiences, and some reader reactions at Maxine’s website,

To augment the fellowship among members, you are warmly invited to join other members for dinner at Faculty House at 5:30 PM.  Dinner at Faculty House, a varied and ample buffet (including wine), is $25, which must be paid for by check made    at the beginning of the meal.  If you intend to join us for dinner you must let us know via email a week in advance.
DIRECTIONS:  Faculty House is located on Columbia University’s East Campus on Morningside Drive, north of 116th Street.  Enter Wien Courtyard through the gates on 116 Street between Amsterdam Avenue and Morningside Drive. Walk toward the north end of the courtyard, then turn right toward Morningside Drive.  Faculty House will be the last building on the right.
BACKGROUND: This seminar is jointly sponsored by the Columbia University Seminars on Innovation in Education, and on Ethics, Moral Education, and Society.
The Seminar on Innovation in Education is co-chaired by Ronald Gross, who also conducts the Socratic Conversations at the Gottesman Libraries, and Robert McClintock who is John L. and Sue Ann Weinberg Professor Emeritus in the Historical and Philosophical Foundations of Education at Teachers College. Founded in 1970, the Seminar explores the process of learning in individuals, organizations, and society throughout the lifespan and via major institutions.
The Seminar on Ethics, Moral Education and Society, chaired by Michael Schulman,  brings together scholars from psychology, philosophy, sociology, political theory, education, religion and other disciplines to explore issues in ethics, moral education, moral development, moral motivation, moral decision making and related topics.
Upcoming 2013-14 seminar dates:  no Feb, Mar 3, Apr 7, May 5.
Columbia University encourages persons with disabilities to participate in its programs and activities.  University Seminar participants with disabilities who anticipate needing accommodations or who have questions about physical access may contact the Office of Disability Services at 212-854-2388 or  Disability accommodations, including sign-language interpreters, are available on request.  Requests for accommodations must be made two weeks in advance.  On campus, seminar participants with disabilities should alert a Public Safety Officer that they need assistance accessing campus.
    Michael Schulman, chair, Ethics, Moral Education, and Society,
     Ron Gross, co-chair, Innovation in Education, ​​

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