How it went down at this year’s ACTC 2012: “Preparing for and Living in the Real World through Core Texts”

This year’s 18th Annual Associated Core Texts & Courses Conference, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, sponsored by Carthage College, and focusing on the theme: “Liberal Arts Education and the World: Inquiring into, Preparing for, and Living in the Real World through Core Texts” took place 29 March through 1 April at The Hilton Milwaukee City Center Hotel, where I presented with the following panel

“Conrad, Ellison, and Narrative Structure:

Blending Critical Thought and Student Engagement”

Aaron P. Smith, Marian University of Fond du Lac, “Authentic Self-Existence for the Visibly Marginalized;” Lamiaa Youssef, Norfolk State University, “Narrative Lenses and the Journey toward Self-Knowledge;” Justin Ponder, Marian University, “A Walking Personification of the Negative: Listening to Stories in Invisible Man;” Rashaan Meneses, Saint Mary’s College of California, “We’re All ‘Others’ Now: Revisiting Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness in the Age of Post-post-colonialism.”

Chair: Jean-Marie Kauth, Benedictine University

Some of the speakers and panels that caught my attention were the following:

Robert Gurval, Department of Classics, University of California, Los Angeles: “Harmony and Homer on the Pearl River Delta: The Foundations of a New Liberal Arts in China”-

  • China is looking at Western liberal arts colleges to help shape their higher education though instead of calling their undergraduate core curriculum “general education” they’ve opted to use the term “gateway education” to indicate that students are beginning the path to learning
  • self in search of self
  • self as social institutions
  • Liberal Studies as training for life
  • introduce poetry first as foundation to politics, which is the gateway to political and economic theory

From the panel, “The Function of Core Texts and Their Programs,” Nicholas D. Leither, Saint Mary’s College of California, “Skepticism Destroyed Their Paradise: Generative Thinking and and ‘Believing’ in the Text”-

  • argues that students lose innocence in college when they’re taught to become the skeptic
  • more often than not in the classroom creative thinking isn’t valued, nor seeing several POV’s simultaneously
  • Rational thinking limits
  • “When we take a critical approach, we forget to believe.”
  • Critical versus generative, students need to take a leap of faith

From the panel, “Concepts of the Self in East and West,” Yaqun Zhang, Xiamen University “Confucius’ Gentleman Personality and Its Influence on Academic Education”

  • education as a cultural mission
  • educating students to let them know they are part of a a social and civic commitment
  • seeking harmony not sameness
  • having a sense of appropriate conduct

From my own panel on Conrad and Ellison, Aaron P. Smith Marian University of Fond du Lac, “Authentic Self-Existence for the Visibly Marginalized” (concerning Ellison’s Invisible Man)

  • one must have existence to become authentic, meta-alienation
  • alienation requires confrontation
  • those who create new values need an audience to receive

This year’s conference not only emphasized true and vigorous cultural exchange between the U.S. and China since ACTC has been collaborating with Chinese universities to help shape their curriculum, but another important theme emphasized again and again was inter-disciplinary exchange and pairing texts that weren’t so obvious on the surface, but in comparing say Machiavelli to Lao Tzu, professors made profound connections and demonstrated an exchange of ideas and values that spanned time and geography.

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