I attended Antioch College from 1991-96 and despite what a number of people have said about Antioch shooting itself in the foot, I learned many important lessons during my time there. The education I got at Antioch was so different from that I see the undergrads here at Big Ag U that it’s difficult to cover everything.

In many ways my Antioch education wasn’t that different than any liberal arts education, so the accusation that somehow it’s Antioch’s unconventional education that resulted in it’s financial demise is just not true. Yes, there are some things about Antioch that are unconventional, but it’s hardly fair to accuse them of not preparing their students for a competitive job market.

Everyone is mentioning the lack of letter grades and the use of narrative evaluations, as if employers hire based on graduates’ GPAs. The truth is that my narrative evaluations meant that I had what amounted to numerous glowing recommendations of my academic work when it came time to apply to graduate school. Just as at other alternative schools, such as Evergreen and UCSC, it was possible to request that letter grades be placed on your transcripts.

No one is mentioning the most important aspect of the Antioch experience, the cooperative education program. This program, which started in 1921 requires all students to participate in several paid internship experiences. I expressly chose Antioch because I would get job and travel experiences. Each year at Antioch I spent 3-6 months working full time at a real job. I spent time interning at a major museum in Chicago. I worked as an environmental lobbyist in West Virginia. I tried my hand in a chemistry lab. I even ran the college’s community garden, marketing the produce at the Yellow Springs farmers market. (I’m glad I got the organic farming bug out of my system.)

My first year at Antioch I worked as an assistant in the registrar’s office. I must have been frustrated by the dilapidated state of the facilities, because the registrar, who had worked there seemingly forever, explained to me the demise of Antioch’s endowment. It had nothing to do with Antioch’s leftist leanings. During the 70’s one of Antioch’s presidents spent the endowment opening up satellite campuses all over the country and hiring his buddies to administer them. At some point in the late 70’s most of the satellite campuses closed down, leaving the campus with practically no endowment. Since then the college hasn’t had enough money to repair it’s dilapidated buildings.

The commencement speaker at my graduation was Harvard professor and popular science essayist Steven J. Gould, himself an Antioch graduate. At the time I found his speech both amusing and slightly insulting in that it’s thesis was that Antioch was like a bacteria or amoeba, small, adaptable, and difficult to eradicate. Now I hope that Gould was correct, that Antioch will reappear 2012.

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