How did you do on your quiz? How is your research coming? You found Prof Ted Humphrey‘s article, yes? He’s the founding Dean of Barrett Honors College, so he’s got important insights about the purpose and culture that he sought to develop for you.
I encourage you to read his important essay, “The Genesis of an Idea” (pdf). It gives you much insight into not only the history and reasons Honors education developed in the U.S. during the 20th century, but what is unique about the approach taken at ASU. Understanding these founding principles and forces is like learning about your family history. You know better who you are a part of and how your personal history intersects and overlaps within this larger stream of history.
This lesson in the Honors Seminar tutorial is ultimately about your academic goals. Why did you apply to an Honors program or college like Barrett? Be honest. What do you hope to get out of your Honors education at Barrett? Do you know what opportunities are open to you at Barrett? Which ones would help you get the most out of your Honors education in line with your goals? Make a list. Include your personal as well as academic goals. Yes, I want you to do it now. We’ll wait.
The more thought you put into your goals early on, the better you can plan and prepare to reach them. Of course, after your first semester or year, those goals may change. That’s good! You will have gained some experience in University, and that experience will help you better understand and refine what you want out of your undergraduate education and where you want to be after it’s over.
Now here’s why I asked if you did your research and read Prof Humphrey’s essay: the better your goals align with those of the Honors College for you, the more prepared you will be to get the most out of your two semesters of the Human Event seminar.
So let’s look at some of those goals, shall we?
Prof Humphrey distinguishes the Barrett brand of Honors education from “Great Books” programs by defining and conceiving the Barrett approach as one which seeks to engender some specific “habits of mind” in its students. Namely, to develop
- “specific intellectual dispositions” and
- “the abilities to read, think, and discuss core issues of human experience analytically and disinterestedly”
You are obtaining your education at a public university. Such institutions have an inherent charge from the residents of the state: “to provide society with an educated citizenry and with leadership for it.” To actualize your full potential as far as possible is how the public university contributes to this mission and to the well-being of all. Note well: it is not through “training” you in specific technical skills or for a predefined career into which you neatly fit. Your education, if it is to push you toward your full potential, must not be constrained to force-feeding you prepackaged knowledge in a “major” or to only challenging you in the academic areas to which you are already predisposed.
You need to really think about the implications of this. As I liked to ask my Human Event students on the First Day™ of class, are you an intellectual omnivore? Or is your intellectual diet self-limited to a narrow range of subjects? Another way to look at it is to ask yourself what subjects and ideas you dislike and would want to avoid at all costs. In other words, what are your current habits of mind? If your habits of mind are limited only to a diet that suits your tastes and what you think are your strengths, are you willing to train yourself, to push yourself, and possibly develop new habits? If you’re not, then you will not only struggle in the Human Event, you will struggle with your entire Honors education. If you are willing and ready to develop new intellectual dispositions, however, and you take steps to unlearn unhealthy habits of mind and replace them with vigorous new habits, then your chances are greatly increased for not only succeeding in the Human Event, but thriving in it.
In the next post, I will briefly explain how the Human Event itself is designed by the administration and faculty of Barrett to help you develop and strengthen those habits of mind and how the content of the Human Event specifically furthers that aim.