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A draft memo regarding the celebration of fifty years of Grinnell’s Tutorial and the Open Curriculum (#982)

Topics/tags: Grinnell, things I need to write

As I’ve noted before [1], the Fall of 2020 marks the fiftieth anniversary of Grinnell’s Open Curriculum and Tutorial. This past summer, I attempted to put together a group of folks to consider how we might celebrate that anniversary. The main conclusion of that group was Council, and perhaps even the Board of Trustees, should give a charge to whatever group is organizing anniversary events. I had thought that Council would take it from there.

I was wrong. Due to some miscommunication, it appears that Council was waiting for a formal request. Since the new semester is about to commence, it seems timely to write that request now [2]. And, as is my habit, I’m using a musing to draft that note.

Dear President Kington, Dean Harris, Chair Armstrong, and members of Council,

As you may know, the fall of 2020 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the implementation of Grinnell’s Individually Advised Curriculum (also Open Curriculum and No Requirements Curriculum) and the Tutorial. (We did offer a few tutorials in Spring 1970.) It strikes me that Grinnell should celebrate this anniversary in some meaningful way, and perhaps even tie that celebration to the College’s current attempts to define a 21st Century Liberal Education as well as the 175th Anniversary of the founding of the College.

A number of approaches are possible. For example, we might have a symposium that looks backwards and forwards on topics of liberal education, we might prepare a volume of articles about the Grinnell curriculum of the past and the future, we might incorporate activities in reunion events, or we might offer a set of linked Tutorials on these topics. Most likely, we would want to celebrate this anniversary in multiple ways.

Brown University, which instituted an Open Curriculum at about the same time as Grinnell, is currently celebrating the 50th anniversary of their Open Curriculum with a variety of activities, including talks, reunion events, interviews, and more. See for details. I believe Jim Swartz attended a symposium on that Open Curriculum last spring.

This past summer, I attempted to put together an informal working group to do some preliminary planning. The general consensus of that working group was that a multi-day symposium required too much planning, but that a general framework to which other activities might be tied would be appropriate. It was also noted that the charge for the Grinnell Sesquicentennial came from the Board of Trustees, along with significant funding for the associated activities.

The group concluded that it was not comfortable moving ahead with further planning as the charge for such an event should really come from Council or the Trustees and that the selection of members for the Task Force charged with designing the celebration also belonged to Council and the College Administration.

Hence, I request that Council and the College create a Task Force to develop an appropriate celebration of Tutorial and the Individually Advised Curriculum, perhaps tied to our discussions of Liberal Arts in the 21st Century or the College’s Demisemiseptcentennial. While the membership of the Task Force is your purview, I would suggest that the Task Force include current faculty (including a member of the Tutorial and Advising Committee), members of Communications and DAR, other staff, alumni, and perhaps a representative of the Board of Trustees. I also suggest that you contact that Board of Trustees to get buy-in (and, perhaps, financial support) for the event.

We only have one opportunity to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary. Let’s do it right.

Okay. The draft is done. Now I need to let it stew for a bit. I’ll send out a revised version to the appropriate folks on Monday. If you happen to have any comments, send them my way.

Postscript: I see that there was a message in my inbox about a related matter that I completely missed. I really do need to work at getting back to inbox zero.

Postscript: While I’m hoping that we call the 175th anniversary the demisemiseptcentennial, it appears that Communications has chosen to call it the terquasquicentennial.

Postscript: During my visit to the College Archives today, I was able to verify that the logs in old College Catalogs use 1848 rather than 1846 [3]. I wonder when we switched from using the date we were incorporated to using the date we first offered classes [4]. I find it interesting that the University of Chicago made the same change, albeit more recently [5].

[1] Or at least as I recall noting before.

[2] I probably should have written it last semester.

[3] More precisely, MDCCCXLVIII rather than MDCCCXLVI.

[4] At least I think that’s what the two dates represent.

[5] When I was at Chicago, they used 1892. Now they use 1890.

Version 1.0 of 2020-01-10 .