From what I have observed in airports and on planes over the past few months, half of America has read Thomas Friedman's The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century. My own takes on Friedman's exploration of the consequences of globalization are these. What has made our country a leader in the past has been the imagination of its people, their willingness to work hard, and the power of their ideas. As Friedman points out, this has been translated into economic success by a well-regulated and efficient capital market that facilitates turning new ideas into products and services. Friedman implicitly cautions students to remain flexible in their educations. The job for which they are preparing may not exist when they graduate -- or it may be done in Asia!
Friedman's book constitutes an endorsement of the kind of quality liberal education that Knox long has offered. Critical thinking skills, writing, a broad understanding of knowledge, and an appreciation of the power of ideas -- the ability to innovate -- all will be necessary to succeed in the globalized world Friedman describes.
This issue of Knox Magazine explores innovation, particularly the tradition of innovation that has characterized Knox College since its founding. Innovation in its educational program. Innovation among its students. Innovation among its alumni. On the following pages, you will be reminded of the College's founding as one of the first schools in the country to combine academics and manual labor. You will be reminded of the Knox students whose debate societies -- Adelphi and Gnothautii -- ultimately evolved into the tradition of intercollegiate athletics. You will meet individuals like Bill Mayeroff, a junior who created his own major to study political journalism; Jay Matson '65, a philosophy major whose Seminary Street development in Galesburg became one of downstate Illinois' most successful restored shopping districts; and Janet Johnson '80, who leveraged the opportunities provided by the Internet to be a stay-at-home mother and a successful businesswoman. Each met a challenge or fulfilled a need using their Knox liberal arts education as a foundation.
The world may now be smaller and flatter. But whatever its shape, Knox students and alumni have the education necessary to successfully navigate whatever journeys lie ahead of them.
Roger L. Taylor '63
I have a confession to make. Sometimes I hate the Internet.
I'm in my early 30s, have two e-mail addresses, and own an iPod. I use the Internet every day to keep in touch with my best friends and my family. More than half of my time at Knox is spent working on the Web, e-mailing alumni and friends or keeping our online alumni community up-to-date. This magazine would not contain half of the Classnotes or other news items without e-mail. In reality, I should love the Internet, and, more often than not, I do.
So why this love/hate relationship?
One very simple reason: I can't keep up. Just when I think I've learned a new bit of code or figured out how to produce an e-newsletter, new software comes along, and I need to start from scratch. It's overwhelming.
But when I think about how quickly the Internet has changed our world -- it has created new industries, opened up new economies, and made the world smaller -- I know that my own frustrations are minor in comparison to so many others'. When the person who takes your drive-thru order is not located in your town or when a job application is easily accessible around the world, how do we adjust? How do we compete in this new world?
Knox recently had the unique opportunity to hear from two distinguished individuals on this very topic -- United States Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) and Illinois Republican Party Chairman Andrew McKenna. At Commencement, Senator Obama told the most recent Knox graduates that "if you've got the skills, you've got the education -- you'll be able to compete and win anywhere." At Opening Convocation in September, McKenna told the Knox community that "innovation is now our advantage in competition. We need to embrace educational change." Regardless of their political affiliation, Obama and McKenna provided the same answer to my question?education and innovation.
Through education and innovation, Knox has met the challenges of changing economies, world wars, social upheaval, and technological improvements since its founding in 1837. Knox students have always shaped their educational experience, helping establish many long-standing College traditions, and Knox alumni have helped the environment, re-energized towns, and established new professional fields.
As the world changes before our eyes, I hope this issue of Knox Magazine reminds us of the importance of a Knox education. By looking back at the tradition of innovation at Knox, we can see how it has prepared us to adapt to this new world. And maybe it will even help me reconcile my feelings about the Internet.
As always, enjoy!
Megan Scott '96