TASP gone?

TA is completely changing their programs this year, opinions? What bearing may this have on the way AOs view the new program?

Sad. Just sad.

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Posts like these asking about AO impact are exactly why the change is happening

“This specific concern related to another longstanding concern that our summer programs, and particularly our junior program, TASP, had become increasingly elitist and removed from Telluride’s mission to prepare promising young people to lead and serve through programs focused on critical thinking and democratic community.”

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Clearly TASP isn’t gone.

They believe there is an issue and they want to address it:
“We analyzed the limits of our ability to provide fair discipline to students at both programs, and particularly the disproportionate impact of our disciplinary procedures on students of color. We also reflected upon the trends toward credentialism and academic elitism that our faculty have noted in the past few years.”

Why is it sad? They state what their new priority is: “explicit goal of combating racism and anti-Blackness.”

Good for them. If students aren’t interested in the mission of the TA, then they don’t need to apply. I don’t see a problem. They took advantage of the pandemic to seriously reassess their priorities. That seems like a smart move.

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Some of us think academic elitism is a good thing. There are a lot of favorable outcomes to encouraging outstanding academic performance, and not that many programs which do so.

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I think the ideal of TASP is effectively dead.

To understand why that’s so, we need to go back to its founder, industrialist LL Nunn, whose fortune enabled the Telluride Association in the early 1900s. He created it for the purpose of educating young people to lead and serve through transformative educational experiences rooted in critical thinking. He also funded Deep Springs, an unusual combination of elite liberal arts college and working ranch that still exists to this day.

While we should celebrate visionaries like LL Nunn, we also have to recognize that their vision is also limited by the time they lived in. Both the Telluride Association and Deep Springs originally only taught white men. I think that everyone agrees that the removal of gender and racial barriers made both institutions better. But at the same time, it is worth contemplating just how much can the mission change and still achieve the same excellence as before?

TASP was widely recognized as a crown jewel of humanities education, and TASP is the ideal venue for very smart students to explore the most important issues of the day with their academic peers. Here is a partial list of current issues that are really important:

  1. The sources and effectiveness of the disinformation campaign against a COVID-19 vaccine, and the number of lives this disinformation campaign has cost.
  2. The reasons for the fracturing of society into separate social bubbles that rarely see eye to eye on anything, and its implications for governance at the local, state, and federal level.
  3. Distrust of elections. How did it start? Do claims have validity? How to regain public trust in elections?
  4. High cost of healthcare in the USA, and its disparate impact on various societal groups.
  5. Systemic racism in the USA. Progress through the years and recent retrenchments. What approaches seem to work to reduce racism?
  6. High cost of college education in the USA and its future impact on creating a two-tiered society.
  7. Policing and crime rates. Study of different approaches and their impact on crime rates, including lessons from “Defunding the Police”

With the Telluride Association basically picking Critical Black Studies and Anti-Oppressive Studies as the two areas they will focus upon, they are effectively punting on many of the most critical issues of the day.

It is critically important for future policy makers to understand the difference between what riles up people vs what is actually important. For example, if someone really wanted to help Black people today, they might be tempted to focus upon unfair policing. Yet a critical look at this topic would reveal that when it comes to police killing unarmed Black people, we are talking about a few dozen people each year. On the other hand, there is something killing tens of thousands of Black people now that is largely being ignored, and that is that the Black community is undervaccinated against COVID-19, and therefore is dying at a much higher rate than other groups. Given the numbers, that is a much more useful area of focus.

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