David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Getting Deboaned

January 3, 2011:  Getting Deboaned

Today I will start a semi-regular feature of this blog, recognizing truly innovative approaches to providing higher education.  Recognize the challenges this "award" can present: type in "innovative university and colleges" in Google, and you'll get a lot of self-promotion from universities all over the country (even the world now) claiming they are all "innovative."  Many times, a closer look reveals that the innovation is standard across a lot of those institutions. 

So, I will look to present examples of the truly "innovative" on some kind of regular basis, which may simply mean, whenever I'm desperately trying to find out what to write for a regular blog.  (How do other people keep up with daily blogs?  I'm struggling to do three a week, and I have a lot more time on my hands than I could ever wish for.)

Anyway, the January 2011 Deboaned and Ripped From the Box award goes to

The American College of the Building Arts

This Charleston, SC, school offers four-year degrees in trades that have faced possible extinction because of the growing disappearance of traditional trade schools.  It distinguishes itself immediately by offering the four-year degrees, separating itself from the community colleges, which still offer some associate degrees in these kinds of trades; The ACBA, though, focuses entirely on the mastery of aesthetic trades:  iron working, plaster working, architectural stone work, and so forth.    These are dramatically undervalued and under-supported trades in a world where the message is that everyone can go to college and get degrees in areas that don't appeal to their core interests:  making products via true experiential learning.

The institution is not even 15 years old yet, and that recent creation of the college allowed it to seek unique space to house its programs.  For instance, they purchased the 1802 Charleston prison long out of use, saved it from probable demolition, and can now show students excellent building techniques and issues with historical preservation right in the classroom in the old prison.  (You have to assume that at the ACBA students aren't complaining when they say college is like prison.) The college also uses a former navy base to house more classrooms.

The faculty come straight from the finest traditions of each trade, such as a Frenchman straight from the one of Europe's oldest carpentry guilds.  I have to assume that the ACBA is not one of the many institutions that believe strict academic credentials (the terminal degree) is the necessary element to teaching students.

In addition, as someone who focused significant time in Western Civilizations classes to the building of the great Medieval cathedrals, I drool at the ability of these students to see these building methods up close.  For me and my students, the best I could do is show the wonderful David Macaulay video, "Cathedral."

For more information about ACBA, where I learned about this amazing institution, check out this article.

So, to the American College of the Building Arts, I present you with the first "Deboaned And Ripped From The Box" award.  The actual award has not yet been designed.  Perhaps your masonry students could make one for us.