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The Primacy of Teaching

The focus of this chapter is the "primacy" of teaching. All educational institutions teach. The question, however, is whether teaching is the primary activity of the institution. The founding deans and the first Vice President of Academic Affairs came from large research institutions where teaching was, much of the time, left to graduate students and adjuncts. Following Wes Tilley's insistence, research became a clear second-rate activity for faculty at Stockton, and teaching was the heart of all we did.

In a document dated August 1970, Wes Tilley—the Vice President of Academic Affairs of the yet to be built college—described the desiderata for recruitment of faculty. Two—the first two—of the list of seven are about teaching. Tilley writes:

(1) Our first consideration must be pedagogical excellence. This would be a simple requirement if it were not so easy to confuse with popularity.

(2) It is essential that the candidate show an interest in teaching the kinds of students we shall probably have at Stockton.

Not only was teaching the center of what we did, but Tilley further argued for a special kind of teaching: Socratic and interdisciplinary. At the heart of teaching were questions, and the answers to those questions were comprised of facts from a wide range of traditional disciplines. One way to see this working was in the multiple program memberships of most of the first faculty. Alan Lacy, Associate Professor of Philosophy, for instance, was a member of the Philosophy Program, the Environmental Studies Program, the Methods of Inquiry Program, and the Urban Studies Program. Each of these disciplines could be brought to bear on the others.

This heady mixture provides the context for the essays in this chapter.

Tilley's central postulations were not about the traditional disciplines on the whole; they focused almost exclusively on General Studies. These courses were to start with questions, they were to mix disciplines, and they were to have the most powerful and creative teaching. If we hired faculty who would tirelessly implement General Studies, the disciplinary teaching they did would, perforce, be exemplary.

Thus, the emphasis on the philosophical underpinnings of General Studies in essays by Joe Walsh and, then, by two Deans of General Studies: Ken Tompkins and Jan Colijn. Penny Dugan's reminiscences of a third dean, Ingie La Fleur, also emphasize the philosophy and feelings of possibility General Studies embodied in its early incarnations. Walsh analyses a seventy-five-page document by Tilley (1973), in which Tilley examines the state of General Studies and finds it wanting. Tilley's conclusion was that neither faculty nor students understood General Studies and, therefore, would not adhere to his original vision.

Colijn and Tompkins describe the state of the General Studies curriculum during their tenure; Dugan also describes it under La Fleur. All three authors discuss the ways that the collection of General Studies courses changed in the face of institutional change while the faculty generally tried to live up to the original ideas. Indeed, balancing change and original vision or intentions is a tension throughout this volume.

The pedagogy of questioning was at the heart of Bill Sensiba's teaching as he suggests in his essay. Bill was well-known for identifying with students' issues, for connecting with their lives, and for challenging them to change themselves and, ultimately, to strive to change the world. Thus he organized protest trips to Washington, protested nuclear power plants and took students to Guatamala to harvest coffee. What he understood was that questioning, though central to teaching inside the classroom, must be lived outside of the classroom. His essay reveals his struggles to confront his students, peers, and community with this central truth.

Originally, Stockton was not going to train teachers. The then-Chancellor of Higher Education in New Jersey was on record as not wanting the two new colleges to become teacher-training institutions. But local demand was so strong for the college to provide teacher training that it was added in 1970.

It was widely understood that Stockton was unlikely to train teachers in traditional ways—or for traditional employment. Therefore, the early Teacher Development Program (TDEV) was created to place teachers in alternative jobs—in alternative schools, homes for the elderly, prisons, and other forgotten environments. Leonard Solo reviews the problems he had with Stockton faculty and administration and, more significantly, with local public school leaders. As it turns out, Solo was unable to gain the confidence of the state to certify that Stockton's model was viable for training teachers. Ronald Moss reviews the process of reconstructing the curriculum so that the state would approve.

Finally, we selected two disciplines—psychology and literature—to examine how actual programs created curricula, offered classes, built labs, hired faculty, and still managed to balance the dream with the actuality of building a college. Both authors—Lester and Wood—are First Cohort faculty members so their history is, in many ways, the history of their individual programs and of the College.

Looking backwards, the tectonic fault lines are clear. It is easy to see where we succeeded and where we failed. It is easy to see which of our original ideas would work and which wouldn't. It is also clear that for forty years, there has been a tension between the dream and the actuality. Much of that dream was valid, significant, and truly unique. That is what this volume asserts is critical to understand and preserve.

Inside The Primacy of Teaching:

What Then Of a Legacy?
Joseph L. Walsh
Designing the Self—Creating
General Studies at Stockton

Ken Tompkins
Joyous Serendipidity
G. Jan Colijin
The Tsardeana of the Stockdons
—Ingie Lafleur

Penelope Dugan
Life Sports
Joseph Rubenstein
Not Left Behind
Gordon William Sensiba
Dancing in Chains
Leonard Solo
The Origins of Teacher Education
Ronald J. Moss
A Brief History of NAMS
Roger Wood
  A History of the Psychology Program
David Lester

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