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The people of the Republic of Factistan have a set of shared values that guide their civic engagement. Acting in accordance with these values will make this republic (and this course!) better for everyone.

Divergent thinking/learning

Some courses in college encourage convergent thinking / learning. There is a body of knowledge that the professor has and the students don’t. The students will be evaluated, usually on a common final exam, by their answers to questions which have only one correct answer.

ENG 200 recognizes some convergent learning, for example, there is only one way to spell a word or form a citation on a Works Cited page; all essays need a thesis statement, and things like that.

However, when it comes to the content of your essays, ENG 200 encourages divergent thinking. It would be professionally irresponsible of me, to say nothing of futile, to expect you to agree with me. It would be unethical of me to give you a higher course grade because you agree with me and a lower course grade because you don’t.

Because the learning is so divergent, students who are more comfortable with top-down convergent learning may find this course full of loose ends, undeveloped ideas, ambiguities, and confusions. They want the teacher to be the sage on the stage, the final authority, the one who settles everything. To them, the course will feel unsettled and disorganized.

Students who are more comfortable with divergent learning will hopefully feel permission to express themselves. Agreeing with Joubert (see right), they want the teacher to be the guide on the side.

Nullius in verba

That’s Latin for “Take no one’s word for it.”

It is an expression of the determination of students in this course to withstand the domination of authority and to verify all statements by an appeal to facts determined by experiment.

That statement is a one of the most influential in the history of the world. In the original, it wasn’t about the “determination of students”. It said “determination of Fellows”. Who?

This statement was first developed in the 1660’s in London, England. The small group of men, the “fellows”, who adopted it as their motto began to meet weekly to discuss the facts that they were discovering about the world.

They called themselves natural philosophers. No one called himself or herself a scientist until the 1860’s, two hundred years later. But that’s what we would call them today: scientists. In fact, they invented what we now call science.

Before the 1660’s, authority ruled. It still does, of course. No one makes decisions or statements based only on facts. The good news is that since the 1660’s, millions of people have let facts rule at least part of their lives. This is not always a good thing. Fact-based decision-making is used both beneficially and harmfully.

Bad: Fact-based decision-making keeps creating machines to do work humans did. Humans end up running the machines instead of doing the work. In our society, humans more commonly end up processing information about the machines that are doing the actual work.

Good: Fact-based decision-making keeps creating drugs that make us healthier, bridges that don’t fall down, and the technology we rely on.

Diversity is our advantage


Looking at the image on the right, you can see how there are multiple options for every piece of the puzzle that makes up each of us.

Factistan has a mix of genders, races, nationalities, cultures. Just look at the majors: the most common among you is vet tech followed by business, psychology, and education.

We have students from Australia, China, and southeastern Asia. This is a very good thing. It will make us sharper thinkers to listen and respond to people who think differently about these issues.