I was fortunate today to find a link to Alexander Coward’s email to his students at the University of California Berkeley.
In an email about why he was not cancelling his class during industrial action, he wrote:
Whatever the alleged injustices are that are being protested about tomorrow, it is clear that you are not responsible for those things, whatever they are, and I do not think you should be denied an education because of someone else’s fight that you are not responsible for. I say this with no disrespect whatsoever to the two GSIs who have decided to strike. Societies where people stand up for what they believe in are generally better than societies where people do not, sometimes dramatically so. Further, I cannot discount the possibility that I may be in the wrong on this and they may be right. I have certainly been on the wrong side of political judgements before and I’m sure I will be again. However from a practical point of view I’ve made my decision and you should all turn up to class and discussion tomorrow as normal.
What followed was a sharing of his vision for education in the 21st Century.
I enjoyed Alexander’s discussion of technology and the human condition:
Part of the work of your generation is going to be technological, using scientific ideas to serve the interests of society, and part of the work is going to be fundamentally human, tied inexorably with qualities of the human condition – human emotion – that dominate the whole of history. These things are not separate, but are inexorably linked, and you are in a better place to understand that connection than me.
I can’t tell you what your particular role should be in the new realities of the 21st century. It’s up to you to decide if you want to make the focus of your life technological, focused on new innovations to drive society forward, or essentially human, focused on the age-old struggles of trying to get along, work together, and find happiness, or some combination of the two.