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on the Bard College Berlin Student Blog

The participants of the 2nd LESC in Freiburg (Credits: Alexandra Sachariew, University College Freiburg)

Hello all you BCBers,

In case someone has been wondering about my absence from BCB in the past semester, let me reassure you of my return in Fall 2017: I am currently not in Berlin but studying abroad at AUC in Amsterdam. The first question one might ask is probably: Why would I study abroad in Amsterdam? Isn’t it just like Berlin, only smaller and with canals and actual bike lanes? I asked myself the same things. But if that’s all you know about Amsterdam, you should just come here and fall in love with this beautiful city yourself. Very few people are able to escape its magic spell.

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Calvin echoes my sentiments on school. (Credit: Bill Watterson, Calvin and Hobbes comics)

“So what’s the plan after this?”

Whoever you are and wherever you are: If you’re a breathing, barely surviving student, you’ve been asked this question before. I don’t know about you, but every time I start to think about what I want to do post graduation, my heart begins to palpitate at an unusually fast pace, and somehow I end up under my covers, scrolling through Instagram — even though I swear I don’t remember any of that

It’s tough. Life as a student is confusing and disorienting: You spend half your time wondering what the heck you did with that pencil you had in your hand a minute ago, and the other half worrying about who is going to hire you and pay you real money for your services.

Don’t get me wrong, I love being able to study such a variety of courses, but I often wonder what’s next. Will I be a writer? Maybe I’ll be a teacher. Prime Minister of Djibouti? Art Historian?

I DON’T KNOW! I find myself under my covers and scrolling through Instagram again.

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start-up

Berlin skyline at night (credit: Talent International).

Liberal arts students and graduates might be comforted by the claims in recent years that their degrees might not be as “useless” as they thought (or were told) they would be. The discourse around the demand for liberal arts graduates in the workforce especially revolves around hi-tech companies. It is skills such as “critical thinking, an ability to deal with ambiguity, to reach conclusions based on considered mastery of research and context” that make liberal arts graduates vital for growing hi-tech companies, says a Washington Post article called Why the Tech World Highly Values a Liberal Arts Degree. A Forbes article says a liberal arts degree has become “Tech’s hottest ticket” and describes similar, “human skills” to be required by high-tech companies and provided by liberal arts/ humanities graduates.  So we might have a “hot ticket” once we graduate, but is it really the hottest? Some of Bard College Berlin’s (ECLA) graduates and a current BCB student working in the start-up world shared their thoughts on their liberal arts education with me.

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Michael Weinman

Michael Weinman (right) with Elaine Leong at Max Planck Institute for the History of Sciences (credit: Sopo Kashakashvili).

As a student of Michael (Weinman), I’ve been constantly impressed by his scope of knowledge, fascinated by his pedagogical style and inspired by his own intellectual passion: He reads ancient Greek and has written his Doctoral dissertation on Aristotle, but at the same time he engages with post-modern thought and has written on the works of Judith Butler and Jacques Derrida— he even has a lot to say on the subject of (early) modern science! In seminars, he can always light up the room with his brilliant articulations of complicated theories without oversimplifying them, along with his humour and charismatic comic presence. More importantly, perhaps, through his sincerity he has enhanced my passion for liberal arts education, like when he shared his conviction that “teachers should be model learners first.”

This time, I interviewed Michael on his view with regard to the education offered by Bard College Berlin and asked for an articulation of the approach that our school is taking. Here are his responses:

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liberal arts

Geoff Lehman presenting a detail from Pieter Breugel the Elder’s Via Crucis. (Credit: Tamar Maare)

It is likely that the words “Liberal Arts Education Panel” have been swimming through  your subconscious as of late. These words were printed onto pretty paper flyers placed around campus within your easy view; they made the difficult but certain journey through cyberspace – presumably from the P98a admin building, in the form of magical stardust – all the way to your inbox. They have now come to rest at the forefront of your mind, treading the unknowable waters of your conscious, where they run the risk of being carried by different streams of thought to the back of your mind unless you hold on tight and follow me in this unexpected and unprecedented Liberal Arts journey.

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This post originally appeared on Public Seminar. Republished with their kind permission. 

perspectivalism

Pieter Breugel the Elder, “Via Crucis”. (Credit: Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien)

Earlier this month, Susan Henking, President of Shimer College (my alma mater), wrote for Public Seminar what she called “my educated hope for Shimer and for liberal education,” a hope “rooted in a criticism of the ways we have been commodified, [forced to] meet our budgets… empowered and disempowered as institutions and individuals by government and economics.” Specifically, Susan finds hope in the way “our” kind of education (at Shimer and other liberal arts colleges, such as Bard College Berlin) cultivates a culture of “engagement with text, with others in the classroom and beyond, and [a] willingness to question everything,” which she believes can be the basis for a liberal education in the next century and beyond that is not merely yet another mechanism of neoliberalism. I hope today to respond to her vision. My goal is to investigate to what extent the three features Susan stresses—(1) engagement with text; (2) engagement with others in the classroom and beyond; and (3) a willingness to question everything—constitute something truly different from “business as usual” in the new global information economy. This “something else” is what I call perspectivalism without relativism.

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Discussion

Students discussing matters of grave importance (credit: Inasa Bibic)

 

Dear all,

it’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new semester for all of us and we at Die Bärliner feel more than just good about accompanying you also on the next episode of Bard College Berlin life. We hope you’ll savor on our pages its distinctive blend of effervescent craziness, deep conversations, playful idleness, and homely conviviality. Welcome, and welcome back!

The last semester concluded with debates and reflection on the diversity and lack thereof on our syllabi and the new semester, too, promises many occasions to continue thinking through what we are doing. Michael Weinman called for discussions on Public Seminar and a lively debate has ensued. Soon we will publish a longer article by Tamar Maare based on a series of interviews with BCB graduates in which they reflect on liberal education and the job market, continuing also our long-standing commitment to featuring alumni and alumnae on the blog. Two upcoming events  will offer further occasion to discuss the liberal arts in the contemporary world: the upcoming Berlin Weekend will feature a discussion session dedicated to this topic and a public panel discussion with BCB students and faculty is set for February 12th. More details to follow; save the dates!

Another focus for us this term will be student art. We want to continue publishing poetry regularly, and also aim to include accompanying audio recordings with it. Additionally, we look forward to sharing more visual and especially video art. To start us off we have a series of student short films forthcoming over the first weeks, and you will also find video recordings of guest lectures on the blog in the future (there are already quite a few on our YouTube channel!).

Creative content in all forms will come from our blog team – you can still apply! – but we also would like to use the occasion to call for contributions from everyone. Whether it is a poem for the Slam Poetry Club, a photo series of the neighborhood, or an installation for a practicing arts class, please consider submitting it to the blog. There is a small budget available to compensate your efforts.

Looking forward,

Yours,

David

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Alumnus Florian Hoffmann giving a talk at Bard College Berlin (photo by the author)

Alumnus Florian Hoffmann giving a talk at Bard College Berlin (photo by the author)

On December 4, in the frame of the core course “Bildung: Education and Formation” led by Prof. Dr. Matthias Hurst, Bard College Berlin welcomed alumnus Florian Hoffmann, the Founder and President of the DO School, for a talk on “21st Century Skills and the Future of Higher Education.” Florian is one of the old “veterans”– an Academy Year (and later Project Year) student in one of the first generations of graduates. He is one of the people who witnessed how the college was taking shape, and still remembers the days when students, with great enthusiasm and joy, helped set up the classrooms by moving furniture, patiently eating tons of pizza before the Cafeteria was established – whilst enjoying a number of enlightening and educational early guest lectures that took place on campus. Florian says he would describe our college as “a small liberal arts education institution in the beautiful city of Berlin, offering courses in humanities.” As a social entrepreneur and innovator in the field of higher education, he is greatly engaged in helping liberal arts students actualize their greatest potential that the liberal arts education helps increase.

On our campus, Florian Hoffmann talked about the dynamics of the modern Western university system and how the DO School – a globally engaged social enterprise that educates, trains and mentors talented post-graduate individuals to transform their ideas into action – fits within the transitional period between college and professional occupation/post-graduate studies. He is a man of action, with a strong emphasis on doing, regularly engaging himself by contributing to the public debate on higher education and innovation. He has taught the DO School method at a variety of universities including Columbia University, Oxford University, and the Hasso Plattner Institute at Potsdam University.

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