As part of this year’s reunion programming, several Smith faculty members presented lectures on a wide range of topics, open to visiting alumnae, as well as students and their parents on campus for Ivy Day and Commencement. Several more lectures will be offered during the second reunion weekend on May 24-25.
Meanwhile, below is a sampling of comments by faculty during lectures on May 17.
Teaching, Prestige, and the Cult of Service
Rosetta Cohen, Sylvia Dlugasch Bauman Professor of Education and Child Study
“American notions about teacher status and prestige, like fast food and reality TV, seem to have been exported worldwide, infecting the field on a global scale.”
“As I see it, to truly rehabilitate the profession we need to dismantle the insistent expectation that teaching is service, and replace it with the notion that teaching is brain-work of the most creative and appealing sort. That it affords a kind of prestige not based on asceticism, sacrifice and service, but on talent, expertise and skill.”
“How do we generate prestige for teaching that is not based solely on self-abnegation and sacrifice while acknowledging the inevitable limitations of salary that will always exist in a profession funded largely by tax dollars? We do it, I would argue, by reinventing the notion of what the work of teaching should be. Institutions like our own need to articulate a vision of teaching as ‘prestige brain work’—both to our own students and to the country at large.”
“It really takes so little to change the environment for a teacher and a school. It doesn’t take a lot of money; it’s about changing the attitudes toward the values of the teacher in the school. When you ask teachers what they want…they want to be valued. They want their best work to be acknowledged. It’s so obvious.”
Throwaway Kids: Vulnerability, Childhood and the U.S. Foster Care System
Alice Hearst, professor of government
“When I was researching my book on adoption, which came out last September, I was struck by how often those adoptions ‘disrupted,’ a nice word for failed, and the children were sent into the foster care system.”
“I don’t believe that all children under all circumstances need a nuclear family. It may depend upon the age of the child, it may depend on the connections a child has to a prior family. Nor do I think that all forms of institutional care are bad. It really does depend on the child and the structure of that institution.”
“Through the years, the courts have idealized a particular kind of family, which gets reiterated again and again in the court’s jurisprudence over the family. Eventually, an ideology was constructed that says good families do two things: they take care of their own children, meaning they privatize dependency; and they socialize children to be good citizens.”
“As I’ve begun to explore foster care, I’ve been increasingly struck by how the design of this system actually increases the vulnerability of those the system is designed to help, and it’s not just because the system is overcrowded and underfunded. Children in foster care are far more likely to remain disadvantaged than those children who have not spent time in the system.”
A Century of Collecting Art of Asia for the Smith College Museum of Art
Jessica Nicoll ‘83, director and Louise Ines Doyle ’34 Chief Curator, Museum of Art
“The vision for the Asian art collection has been tied to the exponential growth of instruction in subjects related to Asian culture here at Smith.
“Chinese language was introduced as a topic of instruction in the 1960s; Japanese came in the 1970s. Today we also have instruction in Korean. Specialists joined the faculty and taught topics related to Asian culture in philosophy, history, government and religion.
“By the 1980s, an East Asian studies program was created and that was shortly followed by the establishment of a major and minor in the department of East Asian languages and literature. Today Smith has the largest faculty in East Asian studies at an undergraduate college.”
From Manila to Mexico: Asian Trade and Colonial Desire
Dana Leibsohn, Priscilla Paine Van der Poel Professor of Art History
“If you’re collecting art in Mexico (particularly if you’re a woman), the expectation is that it’s going to have a political edge.”
“It’s hard to look at a work of art outside of its political and cultural context, unless the artist is a European male.”
“When does a work of art stop being ‘Mexican’ (or ‘LGBT’ or ‘Black’) art, and become simply art?”
“Most critics say if you ignore the influence of colonialism in contemporary Mexican art, you’ re missing out on its meaning.”
Quenching Our Thirst: Sustainable Water for a Changing World
Drew Guswa, professor of engineering and director of CEEDS
“1.1 billion people do not have access to safe drinking water. 2.4 billion people do not have access to appropriate sanitation.”
“Do you know where your own water comes from? Do you know where your wastewater goes?”
“For too long, we, as engineers, have done too good a job of keeping it hidden.”
“Most of the water produced in the United States is used for cooling power plants.”
“If a 6.5 [Richter scale] earthquake hit the San Francisco delta, it would flood the delta, taking water from two-thirds of state residents for two years.”