“This is the hardest class you will ever take.” Thus begins an article that appeared in the April 26, 2018, Wall Street Journal written by a young man ready to graduate from the University of Oklahoma. He was referring to a two-semester course in which students would read 6,000 pages in 34 of the greatest works of literature. Each time I read an article in the Valley Courier regarding the challenges that Adams State faces, particularly student retention, I reflect on that article and hope that students there have the opportunity to hear those words as well. In an effort to retain as many students as possible, it could be tempting to lower expectations and standards. Surely any worthy instructor or professor reading this would not consider doing so. The innovative curricular course work titled Pathways Project to begin in 2019 is evidence that Adams State students will be given the opportunity to acquire knowledge via a challenging interdisciplinary format that emphasizes critical thinking, written and oral communication, and problem-solving along with particular content knowledge.
In addition to the acquisition of rigorous academics, students at ASU should be encouraged to explore a wide range of social, economic, and political ideas and beliefs. They should be given the opportunity to freely express both acceptance and opposition to those ideas and beliefs. A culture of civil debate based on research and proper protocol should be encouraged. Likewise, discourse should be expressed in a respectful and civil manner face to face, not as angry rants on social media. Students should not fear being shouted down or grade retribution when effectively and civilly expressing ideas based on traditional, non-traditional, or religious beliefs. If students are reluctant to express their thoughts and beliefs they never have the opportunity to learn from the consequences, either positive or negative, of their choices.
Further, students should understand they are so very fortunate to have the opportunity to further their education. They should be constantly reminded that they will be ambassadors for ASU when they leave the institution. They should present themselves so that people they encounter see them first for the honorable character traits they possess, not as a member of any one identity group.
The young man concludes his article with these words: “Give students heights to aspire to, and we will reach them - just as surely as we settle for mediocrity if that is all you ask of us. Too many students are seeking clarity and purpose and finding only cacophony and aimlessness.” These are very wise words fitting for all of us to ponder.