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A Student, A Teacher, A Place to Learn

University Communications

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Spring 1996

A Student, A Teacher, A Place to Learn
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The context keeps changing. As the millennium races to its end, rapid transformation of knowledge is a given in the human condition. Knowing how fast knowledge changes, no one would want to rely on the curriculum of Mark Hopkinsí day for the latest word in chemistry, economics or psychology. If Mark Hopkinsí day was 10 years ago, or five, the epistemic gap would still occur, though less obviously. But Hopkins was a moral philosopher, not an engineer or a scientist. Does inquiry keep the curriculum changing everywhere, in every field?

Consider a famous remark by another famous university president. In 1945 Harvardís James B. Conant claimed that "there is only one proved method of assisting the advancement of pure science -- that of picking men of genius, backing them heavily, and leaving them to direct themselves." Whatever the merits of the rest of Conantís advice, no reader in the mid-í90s can miss the moral distance from the mid-í40s implied by the single word, "men." Yes, historyís acceleration since Conantís time drives not only the "advancement of pure science" of which he spoke but the whole spectrum of learning, all the fields in which the women and men of UCLAís faculty are pioneering.

Research changes the world; the world changes research; and learning stays lively only by moving quickly with these changes. In 1971, when I took my first university job, a hell curve was useful for grading large classes, three strikes made an out in baseball, and a rational choice seemed reasonable in anybodyís ballpark. But insert these terms in a timelier list:

  • AIDS
  • Bell Curve
  • California Civil Rights Initiative
  • Cognitive Science
  • Deconstruction
  • Donít Ask, Donít Tell
  • 40,000 Layoffs
  • History Standards
  • Human Genome
  • Hypertext
  • O.J.
  • Perestroika
  • Political Correctness
  • Rational Choice
  • Recovered Memory
  • Three Strikes
  • WWW

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