Works in Progress
The last talk of the lecture series "Works in Progress"
was delivered by Nancy Jennings, Associate Professor of Education Department,
on Thursday, November 22nd, in the African American Center.
Her inspiring lecture, entitled Remaining Or Becoming
: A Dilemma In Rurual Education focused on her experiences as a rural
education specialist, her concerns about curriculum reforms in rural education,
and the tensions of remaining and becoming that happen to most rural students.
Despite growing up in an urban area of Chicago, Jennings
takes much interest in the educational prospects of the rural community.
Before coming to Maine, she took part in a multi-year, multi-state education
project to research how state and national institutions decide educational
standards for institutions of local levels. The diverse experiences gained
from traveling around the country, living in different communities and
observing various education approaches have helped her togain much insight
into the complexity of rural education.
These fascinating experiences inspired her to continue studying
the prospects of rural education in Maine several years ago. Her study,
concentrating on the rural districts in northern Maine, explored the effects
of the Maine education standards put in place to the teachers of the Main
rural schools at the time.
Jennings states that there is an established tension between
the ideals of rural and urban educators in constructing the curriculum.
Rural educators usually endorse hands-on curriculum, which teach students
practical skills that are applicable in their community, meanwhile enriching
their appreciation for the place they come from. In contrast, the rural
school advocates emphasize on an " urban, homogeneous" curriculum
which adhere to state standards but are oftentimes unsuited to the rural
She pointed out, however, that the conflict between the
two ideals has been simplistic and questioned whether the tension exists
under realistic terms, pointing to examples of schools who succeeded in
meeting both the national and local standards that she witnessed in St.
John Valley and Fox Island, Northern Maine.
With regards to students, Jennings also expressed her concern
about the dilemma facing rural high school students between remaining
in their community and therein sustaining the community and leaving to
a new better community after receiving a sound education. The tension
occurs in both institutions and individuals. It raises a pressing question
to rural educators as to which direction they should direct their students.
They are also concerned about how to construct a locally responsive curriculum
that meets state standards.
According to her, a lot of rural students reject their opportunities
of getting a better education in a place other than their home either
because they are afraid of being in an alien place, or because the obligation
of staying home blocks their vision of their own choices. The reaction
is similar in students from poor rural neighborhoods and students of color.
Therefore, the important task of educators, is to make these
students realize the options that are available to them, as well as to
create an educational environment that "makes the world less scary
out of where they come from."
In an open discussion after the talk, many students, staff,
and faculty members stated their opinions about the dilemma of rural and
minority students and how it plays out in the Bowdoin community.
"Works in progress" is a lecture series organized by three Bowdoin students: Riquelmy Sosa '05, Min Kim '05, and Derrick Duplessy '02. It was created with the goal of creating a new kind of in-depth discourse on different topics in an informal setting for all members of the Bowdoin community who are interested. This series will be continued next semester.