Rotary Happenings: Shaping college education in the 21st Century
These last few months the Sanibel-Captiva Rotary Club seems focused on education and literacy. We’ve been sorting through scholarship applications, selecting candidates for the Rotary Youth Leadership Academy/RYLA/Leadership Training Program, seeking students with an interest in S4TL/Seminar for Tomorrow’s Leaders, a leadership training program for inbound high school seniors, arranging for our club-sponsored Rotary Youth Exchange Student from Sanibel to travel and study abroad, finding Sanibel-Captiva Rotarian hosts for our Student Exchange Student from abroad, sponsoring a Rotary 4-Way Test essay contest at The Sanibel School, contemplating the formation of a Rotary club for middle schoolers at The Sanibel School, and of course, looking forward to our fall Rotary Dictionary Day at The Sanibel School and the Fort Myers Beach School. We do this not out of pure benevolence, but out of the knowledge that an educated student population now may find the path to solving the problems of the future.
Sanibel-Captiva Rotary’s guest speaker on April 14 was Anne-Marie Bouche, FGCU professor of art history. Bouche taught art history for several years at Princeton University before moving to Sanibel in 2008. Bouche heads FGCU’s General Education Council and has served on the statewide committee that determines the content of mandated humanities general education curriculum for the Florida State University System. Her topic for the morning was “Our Students, Our Legacy: Shaping College Education in the 21st Century.”
A great quote that Bouche uses in capturing the spirit of her talk was from 1916 philosopher and educational theorist John Dewey: “It is no accident that all democracies have put a high estimate upon education, that schooling has been their first care and enduring charge. Only through education can equality of opportunity be anything more than a phrase Democracy has to be born anew every generation, and education is its midwife.”
According to Bouche, “From the Enlightenment to the mid-20th century, the American system of higher education was valued because a broad and comprehensive education was considered to be an uplifting thing for the individual and for society. A cultivated mind was considered to be a good thing for democracy and for the individual.” But does that hold now? What currently dictates the perimeters of an education? Is it the broadening of the mind or is it driven by utilitarianism? Bouche states that by the early 21st century, the mood regarding education had changed. Higher education is being used as a tool; directed to specific goals that stimulate economic growth and provide a trained workforce. A liberal arts education seems to broad; directed education is at the forefront of higher education.
Merriam-Webster defines a liberal arts education as, “college or university studies (such as language, philosophy, literature, abstract science) intended to provide chiefly general knowledge and to develop general intellectual capacities (such as reason and judgment) as opposed to professional or vocational skills.” Reason and judgement, oh my!
Bouche is a proponent of liberal arts education. An overview of history is important to our future. Of course, we need specialized educational training, but only specialized education? In 2011, Gov. Rick Scott said: “We don’t need a lot more anthropologist in the state. I want to spend our state dollars giving people science, technology, engineering, and math degrees. That’s what our kids need to focus all their time and attention on, those types of degrees, so when they get out of school, they can get a job.” In 2025, the Strategic Plan of the Florida State University System is all about preparing students to become entrepreneurs, innovators and workers.
According to Bouche, liberal arts studies are important to the students of today and probably more important than ever before. History on all levels and in all subjects help form the basis of critical thinking and the formation of personal and business ethics. Do we need some critical and ethical thinking today? Well, you be the judge.
Some additional information from Bouche – while we are busy dismantling our educational institutions at home and attacking their fundamental utility and philosophy, the system is being rapidly adopted in the Middle East, Europe and Asia. The American liberal arts degree is one of America’s biggest exports and one of our country’s most influential cultural products worldwide.
For information about the Sanibel-Captiva Rotary Club, visit sanibelrotary.org or www.facebook.com/sancaprotary. The club meets every Friday at 7 a.m. at the Dunes Golf and Tennis Club, at 949 Sand Castle Road, Sanibel; visitors are always welcome to attend.