Eight: Gathering Skills


At colleges across the country, and all across the Ursinus College campus, a learning revolution is under way. It isa revolution in how young people develop the capacity to use language confidently, precisely and powerfully to change their world. This revolution is facilitated by the digital revolution, but its importance far exceeds that of any technology. Writing and the related skills of textual analysis and verbal presentation, long regarded as skills subsidiary to what students need to know,” have moved from the periphery to the very center of the curriculum. At Ursinus, these skills provide a common set of experiences and expectations for our entire program. Whether students major in English or economics, biology, or chemistry, we continuously ask them to translate their knowledge and experience into words and take responsibility for the impact of their words on readers and listeners. As students gain command of language, it’s as if they have discovered that the wrench in their tool box is really a nuclear reactor and that what they had thought was good for tightening loose bolts can power a whole city. At Ursinus, the evidence of this revolution is everywhere, from journal writing in mathematics courses to the rebirth of our undergraduate Journal of Politics and International Relations, written and edited by students. The results of this revolution are most obvious in the high quality of the work the students at Ursinus are producing. They are finding that writing 74“ 2 0 ” : An Antholog yand speaking can foster clearer thinking, higher ambition and a productive sense of community. In the following pages I want to describe how this discovery — it is really a transformation — takes place and why nothing we do at Ursinus is more important than helping to make it happen.

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