Photo Friday: Connections in Cambridge

The River Cam on the campus of the University of Cambridge. - BCA

The River Cam on the campus of the University of Cambridge. – BCA

Today’s Photo Friday post features a scenic view of the River Cam, which cuts through the campus of Cambridge University in England. This photo was taken in 1976 when Ernie Boyer, his wife Kay, and their son Stephen were living in Cambridge while Ernie was on sabbatical through a fellowship with the university.

The relaxing views Boyer saw, like the on featured today, would have made great spot for reflecting on all of the ideas regarding education that he had accumulated during his time as Chancellor of the State University of New York (SUNY). Fortunately Boyer’s sabbatical also allowed time for him to put these ideas on paper. With the help of Martin “Marty” Kaplan, Boyer published one of his first book-length writings, Educating for Survival (1977). This work reveals some of Boyer’s basic thoughts about education, what it means to be educated, and even what it means to be human.

Yet it seems to me that these ideas might be summed up in one word: connections. Boyer expresses these ideas in a speech he gave to the United Nations Association in 1980. He stated:

There are two dramatic currents in the world today, currents that seem almost to be on a collision course. On the one hand we seem increasingly to want to fragment ourselves and build artificial barriers. While on the other hand the need for more togetherness becomes more and more urgent. I believe the task before us is- quite literally- educating for survival….

For educators the point of all of this is absolutely clear. I’m convinced that in the days ahead- students must be taught that all actions on this planet, whether physical or social, are inextricably interlocked. And I believe that international education which underscores the rule of law must be aggressively preserved. Well to be precise, I must confess that international education may not quite be the term. Students must consider not just the relationships of nations. They must also focus on the agenda of humanity itself.

Throughout the speech, Boyer gives numerous examples to show the need for students to understand their connection or lack of connection with the rest of the world, and the implications of these realities. In other words, if we learn from our connections with others, we can work together to provide a sustainable and civil global community. Thus we must ask questions such as, where will we get our food? How can our energy be equally shared? Can we have a balance between the population and the life support system of the earth? Boyer demonstrates the importance of this issue of connectivity simply through the title of this speech, “Educating for Survival.”

Therefore, today’s post demonstrates Ernie Boyer’s more philosophical thoughts on education and the seriousness with which he associated education with the world in which we live.

To read the rest of Boyer’s speech, click here.


Photo Friday: Boyer’s Thoughts on Technology

 Ernest L. and Kay Boyer opening a gift at a "Dinner with the Deputies" event in Washington, DC. - BCA

Ernest L. and Kay Boyer opening a gift at a “Dinner with the Deputies” event in Washington, DC. – BCA

Today’s Photo Friday post shows Ernie Boyer and his wife Kay opening a gift at a “Dinner with the Deputies” event in Washington D.C in 1979. If you look closely at the photo, you may notice that the gift Ernie is opening is an “automatic telephone answerer”. Thus, this photo exemplifies the integration of technology into the modern day household and its influence on everyday life, including education.

Yet, how did Boyer feel about the rapid expansion of technology in the world of education? In 1983, Boyer gave a speech at Maricopa Community Colleges in which he elaborates on his opinion. He states:

Looking ahead- teacher anxiety not withstanding- it is my own conviction that this time this new technology revolution will not go away. The plain fact is that technology will teach and if we fail to use it teaching will still go on. What then is the place of technology in formal education? How can it be constructive- not corrosive? First, all students and all teachers should learn about the information revolution. In a general education report students should be taught the impact of mass communication. They should begin to see the extent to which the microchip now controls transition and discover the implications of a global communication network that makes it possible for messages instantaneously to span the globe. Second, I suggest that all students should be able to learn with technology….

The challenge of the future is not to fight technology nor is it to convert the school into a video game factory, competing with the local shopping center. Rather, the challenge is to build a partnership between traditional and non-traditional education, letting the technology, teachers, and the classroom do what they do best.

Viewing this issue of technology from today’s perspective, Boyer was absolutely right. Certainly we see from our smartphones, tablets, and laptops that, since Boyer gave his speech, technology has not gone away and in fact it has made drastic gains with its integration into everyday life. It was because Boyer had this foresight that he argued for, what seems to be, a distinction between learning from technology and learning with technology. To learn from technology is to learn of its uses and implications, while learning with technology is to guide the use of technology for learning and bettering one’s self. It is necessary to make this distinction in order to recognize the need for a balance of technology in the classroom, something which teachers today are told to strive for.

Today, I’m often told that I should upgrade my electronic devices (phone, laptop, etc.) every couple of years. However, it has been over thirty years since Boyer gave his speech on technology and his argument for balance still imparts a vital message. How is it that these words withstood the rapidly advancing technology we rely on? In Boyer’s words, “Television, calculators and computers cannot and will not make discriminatory judgments. They cannot and will not teach the students wisdom. This is the mission of the classroom and the teacher.”

To read the rest of Boyer’s speech, click here.


Photo Friday: The Task is Never Done

Ernest L. Boyer with Robert Clark and an unnamed man at the 1973 Aspen Education Seminar. - BCA

Ernest L. Boyer with Robert Clark and an unnamed man at the 1973 Aspen Education Seminar. – BCA

Today’s Photo Friday post shows Ernie Boyer conversing with two educators at the 1973 seminar for the Aspen Institute, an international nonprofit organization focused on educational and policy studies. Every summer for 12 years Boyer chaired this seminar.

Even during the summer months, Boyer worked diligently to improve education as it relates to both the welfare of the individual student and the nation as a whole. Such continuous work was not only a touchstone of Boyer’s career but also a recurring theme in his writing and speaking. Boyer argued in a speech at the 40th anniversary of the Aspen Institute seminar that the factors that affect student learning are continuous, even during the summer when there is no school. He stated that:

A recent Harvard report on hunger in America unequivocally concluded that a child who is nutritionally deprived will have a lower IQ, shorter attention span, and get lower grades in school. And yet- isn’t it ironic that at the very time there is an ‘urgent push’ for better schooling in this country, the federal child nutrition programs are shockingly underfunded… If the nation wants better schools, we simply must become more compassionate and more caring about our children, especially the least advantaged. This brings me to priority number 2. To have better schooling the country must give more dignity and more status to our teachers. If this nation would give as much status to first grade teachers as we give to full professors that one act alone would revitalize the nation’s schools.

Today, even though the school year is winding down, students’ daily experiences- including activities as simple as eating- still affect their ability to learn. There is no off switch when it comes to learning. For this reason, all people have a responsibility to guide students and to be compassionate towards them. Later in his speech, Boyer states that we can do this simply by giving “notice” or recognition to each student. If we desire to be a nation with a strong educational system, we must actually support the students who are a part of that system. By doing so, we can accomplish what Boyer hoped for. We can empathize with teachers and understand the important roles they play in our society- that they shape those individuals who will shape the future by being educators, facilitators, role models, assessors, planners, and much more.

Today’s post not only demonstrates the relevance of Boyer’s words; it is also a way of saying thank you to the many teachers across the country for their hard work this year. Lastly, it is a call for those who read this post to invest in the lives of our youth, as the task of teaching is never done- even during the summer.

To read the rest of Boyer’s speech, click here.


Quote of the Day

“Language is our most essential human function and its sets us apart from all other forms of life, the porpoise and bumblebee notwithstanding. The top priority for any collaboration, in my view, is to empower our students in the use of the written and the spoken word. Language is not just another subject[;] it is the means by which all other subjects are pursued. After all, language is the way we convey our feelings and ideas and define our humanity to others.”

— Ernest L. Boyer, Sr., in a 1987 speech titled, “College: Making the Connections,” delivered at SUNY Purchase as part of the President’s Leadership Forum


Photo Friday: “Best Wishes” from Governor Nelson Rockefeller

Ernest L. Boyer with Elizabeth Moore, chair of the SUNY board of trustees, and New York Governor Nelson A Rockefeller, April 1974. -- BCA

Ernest L. Boyer with Elizabeth Moore, chair of the SUNY board of trustees, and New York Governor Nelson A Rockefeller, April 1974. — BCA

It would be interesting to know what Ernest L. Boyer thought of Nelson A. Rockefeller, the long-serving governor of New York State and later U.S. Vice President under Gerald Ford. Rockefeller was in office when Boyer served as chancellor of New York’s state university system (1970-1977), and to judge by the number of times “Rockefeller” shows up in a Boyer Center Archives’ online database search, it seems like they had considerable contact.

Yet Rockefeller once famously quipped, “I am imaginative [but] I am not bright.” And he wasn’t just being modest: Rockefeller lore is replete with laugh-worthy gaffes. A New York Times review of Rockefeller’s biography chronicles these embarrassments in this way:

Reading Richard Norton Smith’s fat biography is a task “Rocky” [as Rockefeller was known] himself, who had severe dyslexia, probably couldn’t have completed. He was painfully inarticulate, once praising a political colleague for doing his job “horrendously” when he probably meant “stupendously.” He displayed embarrassing ignorance. Impressed by a Thomas Aquinas quote he came across in a newspaper editorial, Rockefeller asked a staff aide to arrange a meeting with this astute theologian. Rockefeller’s grasp of science didn’t inspire much confidence either. After being briefed on the harm aerosol products were doing to the ozone layer, he asked: “How do all those spray cans get up there?”

While we may never know how Boyer — himself famously articulate — related to a man so prone to public blunders, we can say for sure that they both had a high regard for education. For all his slip-ups, Rockefeller — like Boyer — was a champion of education. His biographer, in fact, describes him as “revering education . . . ‘as a blind man does sight.'” Prime among the evidence for such an assertion is the fact that Rockefeller virtually invented the State University of New York (SUNY) system, rocketing its enrollment from 38,000 to 244,000 students.

These facts help explain Rockefeller’s inscription on today’s Photo Friday image: “To Ernie Boyer, from his friend and admirer with deep appreciation and best wishes for your continued success!”

To learn more about Rockefeller, check out this review of his biography, On His Own Terms: A Life of Nelson A. Rockefeller.


Photo Friday: The “Shaping of an Educated Heart”

Black and white photograph of Ernest L. Boyer receiving an honorary degree from Fordham University. - BCA

Black and white photograph of Ernest L. Boyer receiving an honorary degree from Fordham University. – BCA

Last week’s Photo Friday showcased Ernie Boyer’s many, many honorary degrees — and the decorative quilt creatively constructed from them!

This week’s post zeroes in on one of those honorary degrees — a doctorate conferred by Fordham University in New York City in 1973 — and the speech Boyer gave at its acceptance.

Continue reading


Quote of the Day

“[D]eep down inside, the belief persists that education at its best can hold the intellectual center of society together. . . . And this—it seems to me—is precisely the point where “the humanities” move center stage. There is, I believe, more than an accidental connection between such words as human, humane and humanities. They identify an area of inquiry with people at the center. The humanities focus on the consequential common experiences of the human race and in so doing they seek to integrate and give meaning to all the [disciplines].”

— Ernest L. Boyer, in a manuscript published by the Community College Humanities Association, 1981.

Read the full manuscript here.

Boyer on the Legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  in 1964 -- Wikimedia Commons

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1964 — Wikimedia Commons

Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, a federal holiday honoring the birth of an American civil rights leader, activist, and religious leader. Across the country, people will be reflecting on the life and legacy of Dr. King and participating in acts of service as a way of remembering his important role in our national history and in the quest for civil rights for African Americans.

In 1988, at a conference sponsored by the Martin Luther King, Jr. Federal Holiday Commission, Dr. Boyer shared his own reflections on Dr. King’s legacy and its relevance to American education. In the speech, Boyer highlights three aspects of King’s life and career on which student should focus. Here’s an excerpt of the speech:

We all rejoice, of course, that a national holiday has been dedicated to the memory of this extraordinary individual.

But it is my conviction—and it shall be the theme of my remarks today—that

if we fail to bring the message of Dr. King into the nation’s classrooms, memories will fade, our celebration will become increasingly superficial, and the holiday will be a time when we remember only the symbols, not the substance, of his work.

Specifically, I’m convinced that the curriculum in our schools should include a study of Reverend King for three essential reasons:

First, all students should study the life of Martin Luther King to understand, more precisely, the social and intellectual heritage of our nation. . . .

[Second,] I’m convinced that all students should learn about Martin Luther King not only to gain historical perspective, but also to understand the power and poetry of the written and spoken word. . . .

[Third,] all students also should study the life of Martin Luther King to understand more fully the relationship between what they learn and how they live.

Read the entire speech here.


Quote of the Day

It is my urgent hope that by the next century this nation will give more recognition and more status to the teacher. . . .

Excellence in Education means Excellence in Teaching. And . . . if the future of this nation is to be made secure, our top priority must be to give more status and more recognition to the teacher.

— Ernest L. Boyer, “Education in the Year 2000,” delivered at the University of Wisconsin system’s conference on teacher education, December 15, 1988.

Read the full speech here.

Champion of Education

“Education is the great engine of personal development.  It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that the son of a mineworker can become the head of a mine, that a child of farm workers can become the president of a great nation.  It is what we make out of what we have, not what we are given, that separates one person from another.”

– Nelson Mandela

The Life of Martin Luther King: An Educational Imperative

Martin Luther King, Jr. acknowledging the crowd gathered in Washington, D.C.

Today we Americans observe a federal holiday in remembrance of one of the greatest forces for peace and justice that ever lived.  Yes, for a lot of people the best thing about today is having a day off work or school.  I won’t deny that is a nice perk.  I mean, who doesn’t love a three-day weekend? No one.  However, amongst the extra errands you may be running to get a head start on the work week, or the extra relaxing you may be enjoying to recuperate from the hectic weekend, we should all carve out a few minutes of our day to remember the life of Martin Luther King, Jr.  To remember how he lived so fearlessly for a cause of equality which he pursued tirelessly.  To remember the words he spoke so eloquently.  To remember that the echoes of his words still ring today, and that some are hearing his words for the first time.

In 1988, Ernest Boyer spoke at a conference sponsored by the Martin Luther King, Jr. Federal Holiday Commission in Washington, D.C.  The conference was organized to discuss meaningful ways to infuse the life and work of Martin Luther King, Jr. in school curriculums across the nation. Boyer delivered a speech entitled “The Life of Martin Luther King: An Educational Imperative.”

To Boyer, incorporating the memory of Martin Luther King into the nation’s classrooms was a crucial necessity – and served as a way to expose students to the civil rights movement in the United States, the understanding and power of nonviolence, and reverence for the written and spoken word.  Not doing so would mean Martin Luther King, Jr. Day would “be a time when we remember only the symbols, not the substance of his work.”

Boyer’s speech outlined three specific reasons why school curriculums should include a study on Martin Luther King, Jr.:

1.) A study of Dr. King’s life, work, and legacy introduce students to the 20th century freedom movement in the United States.

2.) Dr. King’s legacy lives on today through the words he spoke and penned.  He has left the world a multitude of literary devices within his speeches and letters that teachers should tap into and incorporate in lessons.  Boyer never stopped triumphing the centrality of language, and for him, Dr. King’s lasting words can teach students that “language is a sacred trust.”

3.) Students that understand Dr. King learn that what you learn in life influences how you live.  Education has the power to teach morality. Education has the power to inspire service.  Education has the power to fuel mission.  The life of Martin Luther King, Jr., better than most, highlights these human imperatives.

In short, Boyer said it quite simply with one sentence in his speech: “No student in America’s schools can be considered well educated if he or she does not learn about this nation’s long and agonizing crusade for civil rights…”

Photo courtesy of The Seattle Times gallery on Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement.