Academic journal article Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council

Editor's Introduction

Academic journal article Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council

Editor's Introduction

Article excerpt

To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the National Collegiate Honors Council, JNCHC invited honors deans and directors to ask the president of their institution to submit an essay on the theme "The Value of Honors" This special Forum was an opportunity for honors administrators to discuss honors with their presidents and an opportunity for presidents to reflect in writing on the value of honors at their institution and in the wider context of higher education.

The lead essay for the Forum, called "Thinking and Rethinking: The Practical Value of an Honors Education," was distributed in advance to promote reflection on the theme. The author of the essay is James Herbert, who began his career teaching in a general honors program and went on to serve in positions at the College Board, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Science Foundation, the European Science Foundation, the Arts and Humanities Research Council (UK), and the University of Cambridge. Herbert describes the critical and reflective practices he learned in honors and how these practices benefited his on-the-job experiences at the College Board and NEH.

"The stakes were huge" in many of the decisions that Herbert was charged to make, potentially affecting "school curricula, college admission and articulation standards, state graduation requirements, test specifications, and especially the goals for school reform efforts" He writes that, as he worked with committees on this nationwide effort, "I drew on my experiences in honors."

   When teaching honors seminars, I had often asked participants to
   repeat the point made by the previous discussant before launching
   into their own comments Sometimes we asked the previous discussants
   whether their comments had been accurately summarized. Such
   "reciprocal paraphrase" was intended, first, to encourage the
   students to listen to each other and to build their own thinking on
   that of others Secondly, I hoped that the students, by learning to
   recognize differences among their own views, would come to
   differentiate between what they initially expected a text to say
   and what it would turn out to mean

Teaching honors seminars taught him the strategies that were useful in working with the College Board committees: "I learned never to let an idea pass that I did not understand, always to interrogate it, paraphrase it, and try to work out a mutual understanding" This kind of thinking and rethinking, a complement to "reciprocal paraphrase," taught him the practical value of what he had learned in honors as a "potent basis for coming together."

The values underlying Herbert's essay find echoes many times over in the values that college and university presidents prize in their honors programs and colleges: critical thinking; problem-solving; collaboration; diversity of perspectives and opinions; and communities of trust, respect, and understanding. Like James Herbert, most see the practical benefits of such values at the core of what distinguishes honors education at every kind of academic institution.

The thirty-nine essays by college and university presidents selected for publication represent a diverse range of institutions, from two-year schools (Illinois Valley Community College) to flagship research universities (University of Nevada, Reno) and from small liberal arts colleges of under a thousand students (Emory & Henry College) to institutions with over 60,000 students (Broward College). The institutions span the globe from California (Orange Coast College) to the Netherlands (Windesheim University of Applied Sciences). They include HBCUs such as North Carolina A&T State University, faith-based institutions like Oral Roberts University, and at least one women's college (Columbia College).

The presidents describe honors colleges and programs that are as diverse as their host institutions. The programs range in size from under 200 at Westminster College in Utah to over 2,200 at West Virginia University; they differ in age from 10 years old at Cal Poly Pomona to 52 at LIU Post; and they differ in their admissions and retention criteria, curricular requirements, methods of selecting faculty, extracurricular opportunities, scholarship offerings, and fundraising goals. …

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