Introducing the University

Materials: Slideshow “Welcome to College,” sticky notes

Play Peter Elbow’s believing and doubting game. Divide students into two groups—one that “doubts” and one that “believes” the statement “Higher education empowers us.” Make 3 columns on the board—one for “doubt,” one for “believe,” and one for “both.” Have students write their believing or doubting statements on sticky notes and place them in the appropriate place. Review as a group. 

Students will likely discover that the truth of doubting and believing statements depends on subject position. For example, higher education is most empowering for those well-equipped to take advantage of it. 

Next have them do the same for the statement, “The university system is disempowering.”

Discussion Questions to pair with the slides.

  1. If we take out “higher education” and “universities,” and replace it with “learning,” the dynamic changes considerably. Why is that? What is it about the institutionalization of higher learning that corrupts it?
  2. How does higher education differ from high school?
  3. How do you define success in college?
  4. What does it take to succeed in college?
  5. What kinds of trade-offs do you think succeeding in college will require of you? How do you think you might explain these trade-offs to someone who isn’t in college or never attended college?