Ye Olde TSL: Perspectives on Pitzer Classes in 1965

In 1965, TSL began devoting two pages per issue to a feature entitled “The Pitzer Pioneer.”At the time, Pitzer College was brand new. “The Pitzer Pioneer” was a way for a substantial amount of Pitzer-related news to circulate around the colleges without establishing a separate newspaper. This article, from Oct. 14, 1965, discusses the experimental nature of Pitzer classes. This article asks us to wonder, do Pitzer classes still retain this spirit today?


By Judi Cleghorn

As we continue attending classes, we discover that not all of our college’s innovations are to be found in its infamous government. Just as Community Government is an experiment in living at Pitzer, our professors are using their classes as proving grounds for their own innovations in teaching.

Role of ‘The Teacher’

The role of a professor as “the teacher” seems to be changing at Pitzer. The comfort of being able to rely on a well-defined lesson plan is gone, and the emphasis seems to be almost exclusively on theory and experimentation rather than using well-defined facts to reach a conclusion.

This comes as quite a shock to many, especially those who enter Pitzer fresh from the relatively spoon-fed atmosphere of many of our secondary schools. We are confronted with problems and left to flounder, and often after hassling them out, we discover that there really is no answer.

Publications Add Complexity

The drive for more information in our modern world, as mentioned by Robert Theobald in last week’s convocation, is resulting in voluminous amounts of publications that require more sifting and selection than ever before. Professors and students alike are called upon to recognize the growing complexity of every aspect of life and to consider the multitude of implications that are embedded in every problem.

Because of this information explosion in every field, our professors are most hesistant [sic] to impose their views as right, and consequently, there are few “authorities” on any subject, except in very specialized fields.

How To Meet The Challenge?

As students, how are we to react to this fantastic responsibility? Demands are made in every class, and we lack the time and energy to follow up on the leads we come across (especially with five or six classes).

It is easy to fall into the typical attitude of criticizing one’s professor, and to a degree it is good to be able to assess a teacher’s value, although it is rarely done objectively and with complete honesty. But too often I am sure that we rely on the personal dynamics of a professor to give the subject matter its vitality, and this is not a true academic attitude.

Learning To Question and Act

Presupposing that we are in college because we really want to learn (and sadly enough, how true a presupposition is this?), what way can we most effectively approach the Pitzer system of education?

I believe we are not here to learn specific answers, but rather to learn how to ask the right questions, how to coherently pursue an interest on our own.

And second, I believe we must learn how to act instead of just reacting. Individuality is great, but the whining done in SOUND-OFF! rarely gets results. Our task, then, is not only to learn how to cope with thoughts, but to put these thoughts in a position relevant to our own lives where we can act on them.

Again, we return to our original question. What is the role of the professor in this process? Though the cherished image of siting [sic] at Plato’s feet and absorbing wisdom may be fading, we should hope to replace it with a more meaningful position of cooperative growth, self-discovery and action.

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