California’s troubles are never far from the news today, and the consequences of these issues have begun to affect classrooms at the highest levels of public education.
UC Davis students and professors participated in a walkout on the first day of class to protest the state’s budget decisions; however, some believe that the problems stretch much farther than cuts to education.
Course leaders Jon Li and Glen Clark are hoping to engage these students on a variety of topics that seek to identify solutions to some of California’s greatest challenges.
“We need to go through institutional transformation,” Li said. “What we have now does not work, and elected officials are in no position to improve matters.“
Li has worked on commissions in Davis for years, ranging from Business and Economic Development to the Bicycle Advisory Commission, which he started. Li wants the course to inspire both discussion and individual action.
“Some people in the class will be like auditors, some like tourists, but I am of an activist nature myself,” Li said. “If you look at the website californiaconstitution.wikispot.org, you can see that we are actually setting up a wiki-grassroots state constitution that I do expect to evolve and play a role in real state politics, not just in the ivory tower.“
The six-week Experimental College (EC) course entitled “California’s Future” is divided into two sections.
In the first three classes, Woodland history teacher Glen Clark will examine the challenges California has faced over the course of the past three centuries and how its citizens and government faced these issues.
The historical perspective will provide a context for the more current discussions led by Jon Li, which cover topics such as cultural, institutional, environmental, economic and social problems. The course will also cover discussions on alternative ideas like the Viable Systems Model developed by British theorist Stafford Beer in the 1970s.
The Viable Systems Model portion of the course will be taught by junior biological sciences major Darach Miller, who decided to help promote the course and assist Li and Clark after meeting Li at the Davis Bike Collective.
“We want to compliment [students‘] existing knowledge, and empower them with these fresh perspectives to come up with alternative solutions to some of the problems we have to deal with,” Miller said. “The whole idea is that we have this new medium in the internet that’s not like TV or radio because it’s interactive. We want to expand on the empowering aspects of that kind of media because it really has a lot of potential.“
Despite a rather gloomy outlook on the current and near-future status of California, instructors hope that students in the class will use it as an opportunity to reexamine aspects of the state that don’t seem to be working.
Sophomore Adam Godfrey is planning on taking the class.
“I’ve never taken anything in the experimental college before, but it seems like a cool idea that a lot of people don’t take advantage of,” Godfrey said. “I think we’re all invested in what this class is about.“
The concepts of the class are designed to stimulate conversation among participants both in and out of the classroom. There will be a side project for people who want to learn how to get more involved.
“There are a lot of avenues for individual involvement,” Li said. “We have no choice but to design a system that encourages personal and group action, responsibility and accountability.“
Junior high and high school students, adults and senior citizens are all encouraged to attend the class, which is open to non-UCD students for $25. UC students pay $20.
“I encourage anyone who might be interested, regardless of your current level of knowledge, to check out the class,” Miller said. “See what you might be getting into because this is some different stuff.“
The class meets Mondays from 7 to 9:30 p.m. beginning Oct. 12. For registration information call the Experimental College at 752-2568. This week the EC will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and next week the office returns to normal closing at 2 p.m.. While there is no official deadline to register, students are encouraged to do so before the first meeting.
BRIAN GERSON can be reached at email@example.com.