Tuesday, October 25, 2005
First real day in Luxembourg
The picture above and the one to the left are from the Universite du Luxembourg where I visited today with several of the Miami University visiting faculty. It's a beautiful campus with a combination of traditional and modern architecture, as you can see. The Universite has offered a 2-year degree for a number of years but is notching it up to complete the equivalent of the full range of U.S.A. degrees - bachelors, masters, and doctorate. The two Vice-Recteurs who are guiding the school met with us for a couple of hours on how MUDEC and Universite du Luxembourg might collaborate. It was interesting to hear our faculty exchange intellectual areas of focus - all directed at finding natural and meaningful connections. Although it may seem modest, we agreed to establish two successive meetings of MUDEC and Lux students where those attending will have an opportunity to "debate" or "dialogue" with one another. Debate is a more prominent pedagogy for learning in Europe involving background preparation, formulation of a position, and oral presentation/debate of the perspective.
I found the pedagogy of learning fascinating when contrasted with one of the other issues that the Lux faculty seemed most eager to explore - democracy. Several times during our meeting it was noted that faculty and students at Lux want to understand democracy and they want to explore comparative analyses of how democracy works in Europe versus the U.S.A. There were some comments about the difficulty of fostering democratic process when the world is becoming so complex and when information is so readily available that practically no one can claim to be an authority (both in an intellectual and political sense) over others. I was slightly hesitant to introduce the work I've done in deliberative democracy through the Kettering Foundation. However, debate and using it to foster democracy kept coming up so I finally gave in. I explained that the Kettering Foundation has created ways to engage everyone in deliberation about our shared futures, rather than the typical "expert" models asserted by many politicians. There is considerable evidence that, at least in the U.S.A., young people are deeply disconnected from political talk, primarily because professional politicians have presumed that they have the corner on democracy and that the public has nothing to offer. Deliberation poses the alternative that it isn't the people who are the problem - it's the politicians who are unwilling to seriously engage citizens.
The bottom line of the MUDEC/Lux discussion is that deliberative process may be used in the student exchange between MUDEC and Universite du Luxembourg students. If we can find a topic that will work, I hope that I'll be able to enlist our MUDEC students in helping to facilitate the interaction so that MUDEC and Lux students learn together and so that they learn how helpful deliberative discussion can be as a way to engage others.
On a personal note, I had some personal challenges. I managed to stay up until 10 p.m. on my first night in Luxembourg so that I would pass out and not wake up until the appropriate time this morning - 6:30 a.m. It worked and I think I've successfully defeated the infamous jet lag! My only physical challenge has been finding food and, most importantly, coffee. For those who don't know me as well as others, my primary vice in life is my dedication to having a large and strong cup of coffee first thing in the morning. When I don't have it, things are not good. The problem in this lovely country is that they serve coffee strong but it's in a thimble - at 1,5 - 2 Euros a shot (at that rate, a real cup of coffee would cost me 10 Euros or around 12 U.S.A. dollars). With a little help from my new friends, I think I've resolved the issue and tomorrow should be off to a better start.