CHARTING NEW GROUND
Better days are here. Students are on their way, and there are more of them than we expected. Our thirty-five Horace Mann Fellows will help shape the future of the College, and they give every indication of being up to the challenge.
Mark Roosevelt, President
Although we had a rainy spring in southwestern Ohio, the sun stayed out all day when we hosted the admitted students on April 17. For five hours we talked about Antioch, its history and its promise. The keynote speaker, Timothy Barrett ’73, a MacArthur genius award-winning paper maker, provided a remarkable feel for what an Antioch College education offers.
As we challenge the Fellows to learn entrepreneurial skills, to be “open-field runners in an open-field world,” Tim’s talk and his career illuminate what deep content knowledge and the willingness to chart new paths can accomplish. From when he left Antioch through his current work at the University of Iowa, Tim has basically invented his own job.
Antioch’s historic innovation is the connection between work experience and academic learning, and a panel of recent graduates talked of how co-op shaped their lives. Dr. David C. Kammler, who returns to Antioch as an associate professor of chemistry, offered a short, sample class on the multi-faceted issue of water, the subject of the first Global Seminar and an example both of our emphasis on sustainability and our commitment to interdisciplinary learning. We toured the campus and had refreshments in the newly upgraded Birch Hall, where the students gathered outside as Betsy Ross from the Glen Helen’s Raptor Center released a rehabilitated red-tailed hawk. We closed the day with short talks from Antioch alumnus and Trustee Tendaji Ganges and Jennifer Berman about community – the opportunity and responsibility the Fellows have to help set their own rules and establish their own culture.
The day worked beautifully.
As we chart new ground in undergraduate education, it is encouraging that the Horace Mann Fellows have already exhibited a commitment to forging new paths. Their youthful biographies include organic farming in the United States and in developing countries.
Their academic interests include a desire to create sustainable agriculture and to reshape our economic and industrial priorities.
It is likely that they, more than their elders, fully realize that the way we live in America today is not sustainable. That the particular challenge for this generation of Antiochians will be to discover new and better ways of living that treat the health of the planet as our core priority.
The signs are all around us that we have passed a tipping point in terms of human and environmental health. Industrialagriculture produces huge quantities of food but at a gigantic cost – topsoil deterioration, cruelty to animals, and substantial negative effects to health. Bad diet is eroding longevity and quality of life. There has been a 300 percent increase in childhood obesity, with poorer Americans making up a significant majority of those affected. As we balloon to nine or perhaps ten billion people by the end of this century, most of the growth is coming in areas where environmental deterioration is already a major problem. Climate change has likely taken an irreversible turn, we can now only slow the change, not reverse it.
We need a movement that engages the mind and the spirit and that recognizes how much is at stake. The movement will have to catalyze significant changes in government policies and priorities, consumer preferences, and create a host of farms, businesses and nonprofit organizations dedicated to discovering better ways of making food, reducing waste and the many negative “externalities” that threaten healthy living.
That movement needs leaders with the broad knowledge of the world and the multiple skill sets that come from a rigorous liberal arts education. In offering this education we must recognize the unparalleled demands of the time in which we live: global interconnectedness, the threats posed by increasingly dire environmental challenges, and the dangers and opportunities of new communication technologies.
That sunny spring day, our speakers said “choose Antioch.” About 75 percent of our accepted students have done so. Now, together, we must create a college worthy of Antioch’s past and up to the challenge of building a better future by showing more respect and love for the earth that is our home.