Faculty Lunches/Rich Conversations

“When I decided to become a college teacher, I took it for granted that my life in academe would be full of deep discussions. I pictured myself strolling into the faculty lunch room and having my pick of rich conversations: a debate on Freud over here; a celebration of Jane Austen over there; an exchange on Dante’s debt to St. Thomas in the corner. The reality of the faculty lunchroom turned out to be otherwise.”

The speaker is Richard Kamber, a member of the Philosophy Department in the College of New Jersey and current President of The Association for Core Texts and Courses (ACTC), a professional organization addressing scholarly, pedagogical and administrative issues involved in teaching liberal studies at the undergraduate level. He was talking to academic lunchers at this year’s ACTC meeting in New Haven, Connecticut.

“The reality of the faculty lunchroom turned out to be otherwise.” Ain’t it the truth. At my establishment, lunching professors complain about parking and pensions, pensions and parking. There’s the occasional comment about a colleague, the occasional bit of gossip. And that’s it, folks.

Kamber noted that the deficiency is partly remedied by professional meetings like the American Philosophical Association, the American Historical Association, etc. But even these gatherings, he said, “are typically more combative and less conducive to learning than they ought to be.” And again, that’s been my experience.

For civility and rich conversation, nothing beats The Association for Core Texts and Courses. Kamber again: “We have created a community where distinguished scholars can comfortably and insightfully discuss texts on which they are not expert and distinguished teachers can share their expertise on how to make great books come alive in the classroom.”

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