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Ruth Dempsy Contribution to conference

In preparation for the conference, I've given particular attention to the theme of learning in the modern world. It's difficult to think of changing the academy without revising our sense of ourselves as learning beings. In this context, I am interested in the different shapes (or forms) learning takes as we journey through life; how we may gain a level of comfort while living in a time of rapid and continuing change and how today, learning may provide the crucial thread of continuity for individual lives.

On the broader level, I am concerned that the academy live up to the moral imperatives confronting it today.

First, the academy must refuse to be reduced to preparing students for the job, insisting on the multidimensional character of higher education by grounding its programs in the four basic building blocks of knowledge: learning to learn, learning to do, learning to be and learning to live (International Commission on Education for the Twenty-First century, 1996, p. 157).

Secondly, the growth and long-term health of humanity requires the academy to exercise its intellectual authority by participating fully in all major debates concerning the direction and future of society and steering clear of political and ideological pressures.

Thirdly, in a world where access to information is critical for both the individual and society, the academy must be open to all and take a leadership role in creating a global learning culture. "More is better" cannot be allowed to sum up the aspirations of human life. It's time the academy took the lead in acknowledging other models of the well-lived life.


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