On My Mind by Michele Tolela Myers, president
Since fall 1998, President Michele Tolela Myers has shared her thoughts and wisdom in this column. In this farewell edition of "On My Mind," we collect some of her most powerful statements on the issues that define higher education, and how Sarah Lawrence fits into our changing world.
At the farewell gala for Michele Myers on April 16, representatives of the French government presented her with the Légion d'Honneur, France's highest honor, for her service to education in the United States.
Myers, who was born in Morocco and raised in France, holds dual French-U.S. citizenship. The award is especially poignant because her father was also named a chevalier of the legion for serving as a reconnaissance pilot with American forces during World War II.
Diversity on campus
There is a pragmatic reason for wanting to educate a diverse population.We are a country of immigrants, and although power and privilege are not shared equally by all, progress has been made to enfranchise groups who traditionally were marginalized or discriminated against. The fight is far from over, and we all know that racism, sexism, and homophobia still tear our society apart. It is therefore important that small communities like ours attempt to model what our society could be if it were inclusive, if people were willing to listen to one another and respect each other. -Spring 1999
Inequality in public schools
In the mostly white public schools of affluent New York suburbs, about $22,000 a year is spent on each child. The present per pupil expenditure in the New York City schools is $11,700. I don't know what it will take for our country to find the political will to make at least our public schools places where the playing field gets leveled. It is a moral imperative, and a practical one. And shame on us if we abandon the dream and the legacy of those who had the courage to sacrifice everything to desegregate our nation's schools. -Winter 2006
Race matters, and it matters profoundly in our country. When students have the same access to academic preparation and social advantages, affirmative action will not be necessary. Until then, it would be a mistake to erode the gains we have made in making admission to our highly selective colleges and universities more than a dream for talented minority students. -Summer 2003
Consumer Society Do we have a responsibility to insist that education is more than learning job skills, that it is also the bedrock of a democracy? I think we do. I think we must be very careful that in the race to become wealthier, more prestigious, and to be ranked number one, we don't sell our souls to get there. Let us resist the pressure of market forces that obscure the real purpose of education, which is to make people free because they can think for themselves and participate as intelligent members of a free society. -Spring 2001
September 11, 2001
I am proud how our small community stands united in the face of disaster, how much real support members of the community provide one another, and how quickly they mobilize to act decently and generously to assist those in distress. -Fall 2001
Science and "intelligent design"
As an educator in the liberal arts-working in a country whose universities have long been the envy of the world—I find attempts to compromise science education by introducing the pseudoscience of "intelligent design" disheartening, even frightening. If they succeed, our children will lag behind other countries in their knowledge of science and become scientifically naïve, perhaps downright ignorant. Our society will no longer recognize the difference between scientific thinking and beliefs. -Fall 2005
The power of art
Those of us who work and teach in a college or university where art is rigorously studied live with the passionate discourse of art all the time. Our goal is making the power of art real and relevant to the everyday life of our students and the world outside of academic and cultural institutions. -Summer 2002
The passage of time
Those of us working on college campuses are familiar with the age-old complaint of seniors that "the college is changing" or "the admissions office is admitting a different kind of student." At Sarah Lawrence and other Eastern liberal arts colleges, a "different kind of student" has usually meant a more conservative or mainstream student. We usually laugh when we hear this, and tell seniors: "You should have heard what seniors said about you when you were a first-year student!" -Summer 1999
Parents and graduation
[As parents] our faith in education is limitless. For all the hoopla about assessment and the demands that educators demonstrate what students actually learn, we know in ways no assessment technique will ever reveal that our children have been changed, and for the better. They are poised, confident, mature-yes, mature-and when they graduate from a good liberal arts college, they know how to think well, how to express themselves clearly, sometimes with grace, on occasion with eloquence. -Fall 2000