March 19, 2013,
Volume 59, No. 25
After an email followed by a conversation with a current student, I realized that our College’s honors course program (briefly in jeopardy in the late 1990s) was the single biggest and most gratifying of awards over my career, beginning with a TA appointment at Harvard (1957-1958).
I have been (at one level of consciousness, at least) thinking often about my best students in my honors courses, 1986-2009, as I now work in my fourth year of retirement, after 84 birthdays; my last ‘takes’ from the years of my courses on “America as an Economic Republic.” This (last) book is a lengthy “final” lecture on what my studies of the US, 1789-2013 and the fates of Article II, Section 8 of the Constitution, have left me with a formidably straight, (if bumpy) but clearly traceable line from Adam Smith to a phase I have come to think of as a “post- democratic society.”
I write to add my voice, however, to stress the value of our Honor Students Program; these students, ten at a time, wrote weekly papers, 8-10 pages (prudently edited), whose contents stimulated me in company with my ten students to extraordinarily thoughtful questions for discussion, and helped me to craft many a published paper and a huge string of twice-weekly lectures during my tenure on the same topic. I’m sure my Honors program colleagues would agree that this costly (small enrollment) course, helped to enrich the larger course (87 students, including annually, two or more local alumni “seminarians”), most of them immigrants as I once was since the 1st grade in public schools, in 1935.
I can offer no advice to colleagues who have written to Almanac so urgently and frequently about how best to teach on Almanac’s back page, but I can thank my students for helping me do my work by their patience, their searching questions and by their strong faiths in the great learning enterprise that is the College.
I remain their beneficiary, and the beneficiary of the Honors Program; it was a long, drawn out pleasure!
Emeritus Professor of Sociology
Speaking Out welcomes reader contributions. Short, timely letters on University issues will be accepted by Thursday at noon for the following Tuesday's issue, subject to right-of-reply guidelines. Advance notice of intention to submit is appreciated. —Eds.