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Place as a Foundation for Knowledge

October 31, 2010

Dean Meredith Wu on the significance of place and learning in the digital age:

“Perhaps because I live with my family on the Lawn, this sense of place is always with me. But even if I lived elsewhere, I think the importance of place—our place—cannot be overemphasized. It is often said that with the digital revolution, higher education gets dislocated and enters cyberspace, the “ether” of our time (like so many for-profit online universities which are publicly traded). But the College is not primarily a dispenser of knowledge—and how can it be, when information and knowledge is becoming perfectly free, a public good? The College is a community where learning is based on a different web, an intricate web of relationships that go beyond digital media. Few of our graduates would trade the experience of four years of being here for a hastier ingestion of what they learned. Make no mistake: we head toward a future where all knowledge can be gathered on the head of a pin—or at least in a thumb drive. But there are still so few who can turn data into information, information into knowledge, and knowledge into wisdom. In this sense the College is a profoundly local place, where students learn to understand the meaning of relationships—in constant interaction with their friends and their professors—which will become the foundation of their quest to forge and nurture their intelligence, to eventually find lives well lived. This love of place, and the habit of anchoring life in a multitude of good relationships, should be portable, travelling with our students wherever they go, to all corners of the world and throughout their lives.”

Read the rest of her notes here

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