Alternative education

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April 20, 2007

1:52 AM

The College is both famous and notorious for its reputable academic intensity. Students receive the revered undergraduate degree after earning 120 credits in various fields. Moreover, students are equally notorious for their over-involvement in extracurricular pursuits: community service organizations, varsity and club sports, student government, religious, cultural and political organizations and publication councils, among others. All in all, we, as students, are heavily overburdened, whether through our choice or through our curriculum.

p. I propose that there is an equilibrium that has not yet been reached. Should students receive credit for producing tangible benefits from their extracurricular work? Should there be an opportunity to synthesize one’s academic work with extracurricular work in pursuit of a degree? Should the plethora of optional education (lectures, conferences, etc.) be worked into a credit-earning system?

p. The SDS MidEast convention will not give anyone credit, but it will hopefully provide the College community a thought-piece as to why our work as active community members is not weighted here. This weekend, April 20 to 22, Students for a Democratic Society will host the SDS MidEast Convention, themed “Keeping it Local.” It is a weekend of participatory education, focusing on the development of student organizations as integral parts of a campus community, and how we, as students with progress and change in mind, can effectively influence our community.

p. Highlighted by three keynote speakers, a series of student-run workshops and an opportunity for direct involvement in protest, demonstration and direct action, the convention is structured in a way that should mimic a standard academic environment, but moves away from the traditional teachings on theory, hard science and singular answer subject matter. In addition, a number of fun activities such as graffiti, banner making, poetry, a documentary about community action and a weekend-long “Food Not Bombs” operation will also take place.

p. Josh Ruebner will hold a workshop on how to organize your group to effectively lobby local and state governments at 10:30 a.m. tomorrow. This is especially pertinent to College students given our current situation with the Williamsburg City Council. At 1:00 p.m., Anotnia Juhasz will speak about the ravages of U.S. corporate-led globalization of the rest of the world, and how President George W. Bush’s policies have fostered such damaging outsourcing.

p. She will relate these international issues to our small town of Williamsburg by talking about the colonialist message that is protected and revered by the existence of Colonial Williamsburg as an economic super-power in this area. Rae Abileah and Sam Miller, two members of CodePink, will be talking about women in activism, and how the current activist movement is largely dominated by men. They argue that the same gender superiority issues that have arisen throughout history are repeating themselves in the activist movement.

p. It is important to know that we are aiming for a non-politically charged event, because it is easy to succumb to the stereotype that all activists are radicals. Instead, this event is meant strictly to share techniques and tools used in organizing at the grassroots and local level: fundraising, networking, publicity, effective action, etc. This education benefits everyone, regardless of political affiliation.

p. So, this weekend, check out the Sunken Garden for a beehive of activity and consider how much you can do for both your personal goals and the betterment of the community by getting involved. Educate yourself on how to be an effective individual.

p. __Sean Sheppard, a sophomore at the College, is a Student Assembly senator.__

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