Diane Simon's Learning Story


It relieved the usual routine of high school. It was engaging. It made me feel special. This memorable learning event took place over 45 years ago, but it still stands out in my mind. It was a learning community that came together for the purpose of discussing a stimulating topic. One or two students from each high school in the region surrounding the University of Rochester (upstate New York) were invited to attend a series of monthly discussions on interesting topics, led by university professors. These meetings were scheduled during school hours, giving the participants a real change of pace. My school selected me to attend the first session, which turned out to be a discussion of the concept of ‘charisma.’ John F. Kennedy was president, and the notion of charisma had commanded much attention during his 1960 election battle with Richard Nixon. Among the questions we discussed: What is charisma? What qualities in a person contribute to charisma? Is the presence of charisma a useful criterion for evaluating presidential candidates? Each student present seemed to be an active, motivated discussant. Hands shot up. Ideas were exchanged. The professors acknowledged each suggestion and found a way to give positive feedback to each contributor. This was the way education should work. I still remember the pleasure of stimulating study with a special group, at a special place, and on a special subject. It gave me an idea of what college might be like, and I was ready to go!