The Past and Future of Higher Education

From Professor Ken Kuhlken:

Perelandra College classes are all about reading, thinking, and writing at your own pace. We don’t insist upon set class hours or rigid deadlines. We prefer cooperation to competition. Our grading is CR/NR, meaning Credit/No Record. If a professor asserts that you have gained the requisite knowledge or skills, you earn credit. Otherwise, you earn nothing. Simple. 

I was de-cluttering and came upon a stack of CDs entitled The Great GatsbyFarewell to ArmsTo Kill a Mockingbird etc. and believed they were audiobook versions of the novels. But soon I discovered they were lectures about the books, not the novels themselves. And seconds after a fellow started lecturing, I remembered the downside of majoring in English during college: We spent far too many hours listening to lectures about the meanings of the novels, poems, essays and all, when quite often the lectures were either redundant, in that the meanings they pointed out were obvious, or they were dubiously conceived formulations of what the professor considered important. 

Mostly what I gained from lectures was the fear that what I wrote in required essays had better be in accord with the lecture material. So, my writing was enfeebled by a distinct lack of either freedom or passion.

From the beginning of my teaching career, I consciously avoided lecturing, largely because I believed students gained more from discussions in which ideas were posed and often argued about and the content was presented as something to be considered and interpreted rather than swallowed and digested. I mean, we all know what comes after digestion. 

These many years later, what I remember from college is what, usually in the reading, made me think.

Which is why I am a fierce advocate of the Perelandra College process. In brief: read, think, create.

My daughter Zoe, now a student at MIT, is mighty smart, which we discovered early on, so we considered enrolling her in a certain private school. When some prospective parents attended a luncheon with the Head of School, while presenting the school’s resources,  he mentioned the student-faculty ration that allowed for students to find mentors. And he told of asking one of their board of governors, a highly successful technology leader, what one factor was most likely to lead to success in future endeavors. This fellow, without hesitation, answered, “Oh, a mentor or mentors, of course.”

The Perelandra College process in full: read, and if you need guidance, consult with the professor; think and perhaps ask questions of the professor; then write with the creative freedom that comes from thinking independently and submit your writing to the professor, who responds with observations and suggestions. 

Simple yet revolutionary.