April 17, 2014

Dr. Palmer’s Update: September 2012

Dr. Palmer’s Update: September 2012
September 6, 2012

The 2012–13 academic year is underway. Parking is a lot tighter than it was this summer, but—believe me—it’s worth it. Doing the real work of Principia depends on having students filling the classrooms, athletic fields, and dorms/houses. It’s terrific to have them back.

The School is welcoming 16 new families, with students ranging from Early Childhood through Upper School, to the area. At the same time, we are extending a warm welcome to the new and returning Upper School boarders who come from 28 states and Puerto Rico, along with 16 other countries.

This fall the School shifted from trimesters to semesters, and the new Upper School schedule is allowing for more days devoted to community service. These older students are looking forward to getting out and making increased contributions to the broader community. At the Middle School, “advisory” groups are researching and selecting an organization to support through community service this year.

At the College, we have students from 25 countries and 38 states enrolled this semester. It’s amazing to realize that this year’s incoming freshmen have never known a world without the Internet. Amazon has never been just a river in South America to them. When most College freshmen were born in 1994, an average gallon of gas cost just $1.09. How things change!

Part of our opportunity is to take students who have been awash in computerized technology for their entire lives and help them distinguish between information and understanding. We have the privilege of helping students accustomed to instant access acquire the patience of scholarship and the deep rewards of intellectual reasoning, all the while building character from the preschool years all the way through college.

Principia founder Mary Kimball Morgan defined the “real work” of Principia as the “unfoldment of character.” Being a witness to that unfoldment during the course of students’ educational careers at Principia is remarkably rewarding.

Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to speak to the entire College community at Convocation. The faculty sat on stage in full academic regalia, and we continued the tradition started four years ago of welcoming the incoming class with applause as they pass through the Colonnade. This significant beginning for new students mirrors the walk they take down the Colonnade at graduation, and having the faculty wear their academic robes serves to underscore the significance of both the beginning and end of the students’ undergraduate journey.

Our first Speaker Series event at the College this year will bring General Peter Pace, USMC (RET), to Elsah on September 21. General Pace was the 16th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, serving as the principal military advisor to the president. His talk, “Global Security: A Lap Around the World,” will take the audience on a tour of the globe, exploring the most serious worldwide threats and what can be done to counter them.

The new 21st century classroom at the College, funded with a generous gift from the 50th Reunion College Classes of 1962 and 1963, is now fully operational. Four courses are regularly meeting in the classroom this semester, ranging from an upper-level computer science course to an English class taught remotely by a professor in New York. In case you missed it, view the video of the classroom’s open house held during June’s College reunion. This classroom is capable of bringing the world to Principia, and it’s exciting to see the students and professors benefiting from the state-of-the-art technology.

In addition to bringing the world to Principia, we are also finding new ways to share Principia more broadly around the globe through increased options for online learning. The School’s first-ever online biology course for high schoolers got started this month. Most of these remote students are homeschoolers who were looking for an alternative to the standard approach to biology, and we are grateful to be able to deliver the Principia experience to them.

For adult learners looking for a non-credit, enrichment opportunity, Principia Lifelong Learning is offering three fascinating courses, beginning the last week of September. Learn about the Renaissance or how to market your business online, or jump into the ongoing Bible Series through a thoughtful exploration of the book of Daniel. Any of these topics will enrich your fall and feed the love of learning.

After all, why should the youngest members of our families be the only ones sharpening their pencils and heating up their computers this fall? If you’re feeling more committed to the traditional approach to education, join us for Autumn Session at the College September 22–October 6. You are welcome to stay at the Principia Guest House, study film or history, or take Principia’s signature course on the history of the Christian Science movement—along with participating in the full range of campus activities, of course. We would be delighted to have you join in the fun!

 
  • Betsie Ellington Tegtmeyer

    Students of academics and students of Christian Science must be good thinkers, and so I appreciate knowing that this is the “MO” of the administration of Principia, and that students are continuing to be taught how to think, midst the barrage of technology that is such a huge part of their lives.   

  • Kathleen Steers

    I, also, am impressed by the concept of distinguishing between information and understanding, a skill so critical and yet so often unrecognized and/or addressed in education.  This is a wonderful address.  Principia remains so inspiring, and the students who attend are indeed fortunate.