Don't Send Your Kid to the Ivy League

Not posting this to put these schools down…I have many friends at them who are receiving wonderful educations…but I’ve been pondering a lot this summer about what a college education is really for, and how Bennington can help support that need.  So often on tour, I get strange looks about lack of grades, lack of pre-conceived requirements, the size, etc…but these are all qualities of Bennington that (in my opinion) are put in place in order to help teach “to the soul.”  When my parents asked me why I was so set on going to Bennington, I remember saying, "At any other school, I could learn to be a better student.  But I’m already an incredible student…I don’t need to prove that to myself.  I need to learn how to be a person.”  What do you think?  

It’s a national conversation, and you’re a part of it.

— Parke ‘15

Is there actual coffee during Coffee Hour? — Asked by Anonymous

it depends. Each house does their own thing. The way it has worked in the two houses that I have lived in is that we take turns bringing sustenance to coffee hour. We’ve had everything from nachos to cookies to tic-tacs. One time, fellow intern, Chernoh, made Grape Kool-Aid. 

Hey, there really aren’t any rules when it comes to this stuff, so if you want to serve coffee at coffee hour, do it. 

-Glennis

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purplecarrotfarm:

We’re Selling! Every Friday from 3:30-4:30 by the flagpole. This week we got eggplant, we got beet green, we got kale, we got basil, we got mint, we got spinach, we got swiss chard, we got pineapples (not really). SPECIAL BONUS: come watch/help us braid garlic (not for sale this week).

Intern Sylvia second life as a farmer on the student farm. Also featuring farmer Sam, Sylvia’s partner in uh er… veggies?
If you’re around, stop by!
-Glennis

purplecarrotfarm:

We’re Selling! Every Friday from 3:30-4:30 by the flagpole. This week we got eggplant, we got beet green, we got kale, we got basil, we got mint, we got spinach, we got swiss chard, we got pineapples (not really). SPECIAL BONUS: come watch/help us braid garlic (not for sale this week).

Intern Sylvia second life as a farmer on the student farm. Also featuring farmer Sam, Sylvia’s partner in uh er… veggies?

If you’re around, stop by!

-Glennis

New work by recently graduated intern, Ben Redmond. The video is a collaboration with Sarah Fetterman, another recent graduate, and it is a piece that she made while she was here. Check it out. 

Yay collaboration.

-Glennis 

Is it true that there is no grading system, as in most educational institutions? — Asked by Anonymous

Nope! We just posted a post about this last week (actually, it’s still on the front page). We do have grades and most students choose to take them. I’ve taken them every term.  In addition to grades we receive a narrative evaluation for each class. 

I like grades because I’ve always had them and I have an exact measure of my performance. But, it’s not always all about measuring up to others which is why the evaluations are great. They are usually a paragraph or two of critical feedback of how I did in the class. I find the evaluations extremely helpful and often very on point as to where I struggled or what I could do to improve as well as where I did well. 

Hope that clears the air. 

-Glennis

What should I wear on a visit? — Asked by Anonymous

Whatever you feel is appropriate.

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Best of luck,

Sylvia M. ‘16

FIrst of all, thank you for including Transfers on the Class of 2018 map. Second, when might we be seeing this wonderful creature? — Asked by Anonymous

I am on it.

1 hand-drawn map of the US and 1 hand drawn map of the world.

Currently struggling with the northern Canada area… there are so many strangely-shaped islands. It’s an adventure in details and acceptance of minor faults. 

You will see the lovely creation (well, we’ll see how lovely it is when it’s all done… getting all the borders in Europe correctly laid down is a terrifying prospect) when you arrive here on campus. Maybe we will also post on the blog about it. First things first, I need to finish the Eastern Hemisphere — I’ve almost made it across the Pacific at this point. 

Good things are coming, everybody. The map is on its way.

Go on, intrepid explorers, I raise my pencil in a toast to you.

Sylvia M. ‘16

When will we be getting our roommate and housing info? — Asked by Anonymous

from Kate’s post in the Class of 2018 Facebook group:

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so sometime next week, depending on where you live. It’s via mail, so if your roommate lives closer than you do, expect them to be hitting you up on Facebook or something.

kagan “roommate” ‘16

Do a lot of students bike? Are there good places to bike? — Asked by casualroadmap

Yeah, we got some bikers. I’d actually say campus is easier to bike around than drive or anything, but people will also bike into town as long as it isn’t too gross out. North Bennington is especially bike-friendly, as it’s like ten minutes (five if you’re fast???) away from the middle of campus by bike, and it’s got some good mountain and road biking routes. There’s also a cycle club on campus that started up this last year.

semper games

kagan “bike” ‘16

requirements?

While we talk a lot about the Plan Process on the blog, we just wanted to clear up what Bennington “requires” of our students.

In addition to successfully completing the Plan Process, Bennington students are required to earn at least 128 credits, and to complete four Field Work Terms (we talk about that on the blog a lot too.) 

In order to allow students to successfully fulfill the intense academic discovery that comes along with the Plan, we don’t have any restrictions or requirements on what classes a student can and can’t take. The open curriculum is there to facilitate the needs of your personal academic narrative and to allow you the freedom to explore, to stumble upon new passions, to find connections between your work, and to make mistakes and learn from them. This allows students the freedom to pursue a plan process with rigor and merit, that successfully articulates your academic goals and how you’re going to reach them, that conveys who you are and how you think, what you’re doing with your time here, and where you’re headed. This all happens through a series of opportunities for reflection and evaluation which take the form of plan essays, plan meetings, junior reviews, senior work, etc. that are facilitated by the faculty and deans office.

While this process is seemingly simple on paper, it’s kind of revolutionary in its origins, and it asks a lot of every Bennington student. We don’t just ask you to do well in your classes, we require that can you explain why you’re taking them, why here, why now. And yes, all those “whys” can be taxing, but they make certain that your time here is spent wisely, ensuring that you receive a holistically grounded education with which you can enter the world equipped to share all you have to offer and prepared to absorb what the world has to offer you.

- Sarah ‘15

the abc’s of evaluations at bennington

So at Bennington we have the option of requesting traditional letter grades for any and/or all courses, or to take our classes on a pass/fail basis. What accompanies both of these options are extensive narrative evaluations from our teachers which include strengths, weaknesses, progress, things to keep in mind looking forward, in class performance, etc. These evaluations are personal and encapsulate your performance in a way that is forward thinking, building on your time in class as a way to talk about your work as a whole and what to keep in mind as it progresses. Over half of us (54% to be exact) take letter grades each term. So really the decision is just about what works for you as a student.

This past term was my first requesting letter grades. I found the evaluations I received from faculty to be so fair and on-point, that I couldn’t see the use of a letter grade in their presence. But as I look towards the end of my four years here graduate school is certainly on the table, and while the evaluations I’ve received are an essential part of my transcript, a GPA is something that the schools I’m looking at ask for.

While my experience has only been with a term of grades so far, I have friends who’ve been requesting them from the get-go and friends who haven’t felt the need to request them at all. So once again, it’s all about what meets your needs as a student.

- Sarah ‘15

I’ve always taken grades and I find that incredibly fulfilling to get a letter grade and an evaluation which helps me understand why I got what I did and how I could improve in the future. 

-Glennis

I just got my ACT scores back- 26 composite. Am I doomed for admission to Bennington? In my defense, I was bit by a spider before taking the test so I didn't feel that well during it! lol! — Asked by Anonymous

You know who else had some difficulty after a spider bite? This guy!imageAnd Bennington would totally consider Spiderman as an applicant — just think of the interdisciplinary options! I mean, physics, public action, biology, journalism, costume design, urban planning, it’s all there. Really, numbers don’t count for much with us unless they count for much with you. We don’t even require your scores. We try instead to look at the person you are — your interests, passion, growth, questions, and anything else you want to send our way.

The bottom line is: If you feel that this number 26 reflects who you are as a person, then feel free to send it in. If you do not feel that it reflects who you are as a person, feel no pressure to send it in. 

( Also, if you experience side-effects of: an undeniable urge to wear Lycra and practice parkour, a surge of intuition you might call “spider senses,” and the inability to let evil go un-fought in your city, you might want to speak with your doctor, and tell him you’re Spiderman.)

All the best,

Sylvia M. ‘16

Looking for a new summer jam?
Well look no further; here is Sylvan Esso (featuring Bennington’s own Amelia Meath ‘10) on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.
I first discovered this song when my neighbor kept playing it on repeat and I could hear it through our wall. I have never been more grateful to her for playing music at slightly excessive volumes.
- Sarah ‘15

Alan Tries to Save the World By Recommending a Book #1

After a last minute course change, last term I found myself in “Human Natures” a half biology, half psychology class. The psych half was why I considered it at all. I have respect for the natural sciences, don’t get me wrong. They just drive me insane, but now I know why: scientists misuse their own jargon and make it seem more absolute than it is. Check this out. Scientists are also pretty guilty of misusing these terms; my brother and his wife — both have PhDs in the science — told me they heard these ideas misused regularly. The result is an absolutism that I find off-putting. More importantly, it is misleading. And today, we orient ourselves toward the natural sciences more than any other field. They hold the trump card in political debates.

Evolution’s Rainbow by Joan Roughgarden has become my best friend this summer; she questions the absolutes on behalf of, well, everyone: feminists, queers, humans, lizards. She uses evolution to argue against a model which sees beings as heterosexual males and females, with everyone else being treated as an anomaly. She reworks things once thought of as absolute. In their place, she creates a more accurate frame, which just happens to affirm the value of diversity.

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Predictably, I ended up falling in love with biology after understanding it better. Thanks Betsy. And I’m jazzed to have a new angle to approach queer theory from.

Alan ‘15

On HONY I saw this man who said the worst time of his life was when his college friends came into his room, "kidnapped him" and took him somewhere. Does any sort of these rascally activities happen at Bennington ever? — Asked by Anonymous

Sadly, stupid people exist everywhere. I don’t think you should worry, though because it was his friends that did this. That is not to say that it wasn’t traumatic, but it is in some ways preventable. Don’t hang out with idiots! I bet this gentleman chooses his friends differently now. Learning the hard way is hard.

I also recommend making it clear that you don’t have a sense of humor (I do not mean this as an insult, I am describing myself). This can be difficult because often it encourages people to pull pranks on you, because it is even more cute somehow. Think of Sam the Eagle from the Muppets (my spirit animal). He does not have a sense of humor, yet pulling a prank on him would still be very funny:
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The trick is whining. Say someone hides something important to you hold dear like your ice cream. Do not give them any satisfaction. Instead say: “seriously guys I was going to eat that and then sleep. Ugh it has been a long day and I don’t have a sense of humor. I love sleeping and eating and you are getting in the way.” This works. Do not expect positive surprises though, like parties.

Alan ‘15