Last Dances

I have taught the senior capstone of our liberal arts core for over a decade.  It's been called the inescapable course.  No one gets out of this place without taking it, but that finally comes to an end next July.  That's when the old general education core makes way for the new one.  And that means bye-bye capstone.

I have mixed feelings about this.  On the one hand, everything in higher education should probably have a sunset clause.  Ten years, I'd say.   If nothing else, it would force you to rethink what you are doing and why.  That's useful even if you decide not change anything. 

On the other hand, the core capstone has been such fun to teach.  In it students evaluate the meaning, use and significance of their liberal arts education.  Consequently, I've been able to read about my students' journeys and to hear some fairly flattering things about the work of my colleagues.  I often feel privileged to teach capstone for this very reason. 

It's easy in higher education to be cynical about what we do. University life has its politics and bureaucratic pointlessness.  It's also got its fair share of disillusioned idealists.  Teaching capstone, however, has helped me remember that in the larger picture this place actually does work.  It could always work better, of course.  I won't deny that, but we really do work.  Our students' lives are transformed.  It's important not to lose sight of that.

I've also taught capstone so long that it's become something like a great old dance partner.  We know each other so well.  We know when to turn, when to dip...  We're pretty damned smooth on our best days, and I have back-up plans for my back-up plans on the days when we aren't at our best.

But it's time for her go.  Every act grows stale eventually.  I have two sections this fall and one in the spring, and I feel as though I'm teaching the course better than ever.

 The old girl deserves nothing less.


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