The Wingspread Conferences

Every year, usually two students (one junior and one senior, though sometimes a joint fellowship is arranged) from each of four departments at Carleton are invited to attend two of the Wingspread conferences in Racine, Wisconsin. This means spending an expense-paid weekend amongst the top people in the relevant field. Students can choose which conference they would like to attend. We encourage all the majors to talk with past Wingspread students about their experiences.

We have included here a summary written by Lyri Merrill, '85, concerning one of the conferences she attended:

"As a Wingspread fellow for the Soc/Anthro department I am allowed to attend up to two conferences per academic year at the Wingspread Conference Center in Racine, Wisconsin. The conferences cover a wide range of areas, such as education, foreign policy, and civil rights, and they attract speakers and participants from all over the nation. I attended a conference last June on Education in Japan: The Perspective from the United States. The main focus of this conference was to analyze the Japanese educational system in hopes of isolating elements which would be applied to the improvement of the American system. Four speakers gave presentations at the conference, all of which were highly informative. Harold Stevenson, professor of psychology at the University of Michigan gave a comparative analysis of achievement of elementary school children in Japan and the United States. Nobuo Ken Shimahava, professor of education, Rutgers University, spoke on secondary education in Japan. Edward B. Fiske, education editor for the New York Times, discussed the importance of seeing the Japanese educational system as indigenous to Japanese society and not directly comparable to the American system. The differences between Japanese and American teachers were discussed by John J. Cogen, professor of education and director, Global Education Center, University of Minnesota.

"The conference provided a wealth of information and insight which cannot be briefly summarized. For me the most important point of the conference was that the educational system of Japan ties in so closely with the social structure and ideology of Japan, and because Japanese society is so different from our own it becomes almost pointless to ask how American educators can emulate the Japanese educational system or even their style of teaching. As Edward Fiske remarked, `The Japanese system is very good at educating Japanese.' In our pluralistic society education is seen as a means of realizing individual potential, whereas in the more homogeneous society of Japan education is highly centralized and standardized, and the emphasis is on educating all students equally as a national resource to provide a competitive edge in the business world. This fundamental distinction is one of many brought up at the conference which contrasted the educational systems of these two countries."
--Lyri Merrill