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

Since its inception in the year 2000, the Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council has adopted a theme for each issue, typically in a Forum inviting submissions from members on such topics as "Honors in the Digital Age" or "Honors Culture." For the current issue, we experimented with an Open Forum aimed at collecting essays on topics that members find significant or controversial in the current climate of honors. We should have anticipated that we would receive fewer submissions than usual since most of us, given an infinity of options, need a prompt to get our thoughts started. The essays we include in this issue's Open Forum, though few, are provocative in their subject matter and might provide directions for future essays and Forum topics.

The first essay in the Open Forum should spark both interest and concern as it describes a potentially dangerous predicament that any honors administrator or faculty member could encounter in our age of fake news, confrontational politics, and willful misunderstandings. Surely many among us have imagined with dread a 60 Minutes interviewer appearing at our office door with lights, cameras, and questions focused on our rationale for offering a course on the Koran or an admissions policy that is either too exclusive or inclusive. The essay "Teaching an Honors Seminar on #BlackLivesMatter in East Texas" describes just such an experience. The authors--Ervin Malakaj, Jeffrey L. Littlejohn, Kimberly Bell, Patrick J. Lewis, and Julia D. May--describe a course they offered last spring as part of the Difficult Dialogues honors seminar series at Sam Houston State University (SHSU). "The seminar considered the complex historical, economic, and cultural forces that produced the movement along with the various responses to it," but by mid-semester it became "a target for fake news blogs and websites." An intellectually rigorous seminar that combined scholarly analysis, critical thinking, and experiential components, the seminar was one that might be proudly offered in any honors curriculum, but soon it became the victim of a smear campaign, first locally and then nationally. Because the honors college at SHSU offers scholarships, headlines appeared like "Need money? Texas college will pay you to feel guilty about your whiteness" and "Disgrace on Campus." Donors and alumni began calling the president of SHSU to express their shock and withdraw their support. Fortunately for the honors college, the administrators at all levels of SHSU were both savvy and supportive, arranging news releases and interviews that caused the uproar to die down, but "the toxic discourse created by fake news outlets threatened the very foundation that provides students and faculty the venues in which such matters can be addressed," venues that are essential to honors education everywhere. Caveat praeceptor!

Craig Kaplowitz of Judson University offers an excellent follow-up essay in "Helping with the 'How': A Role for Honors in Civic Education," beginning with the opening sentence: "The current political moment in the United States puts an exclamation point on years of growing concern for our civic culture." Kaplowitz argues for the momentous role of honors education when "purely tactical maneuvers substitute for honest debate and substantive process, where self-critique and healthy nuance are rare, and where means and ends are often confused." In teaching students to apply the basic principles of academic research--accurate use of data and sources, understanding of methodologies, detailed analysis of evidence, honest consideration of conflicting arguments, fair and accurate interpretation of ideas--we can help them become not just better scholars but better citizens: "honors programs and colleges have distinct opportunities to help our students navigate and enhance our public space, thereby providing a vital service for them and for our communities." The conditions that imperil a seminar on #BlackLives-Matter are precisely the reason we need to prepare our students to take their scholarship into the public arena. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.