Jay Jones, professor of biology and biochemistry, told roughly 25 people to reconnect with nature, reinvest in quality education and reduce the excessive use of palm oil Tuesday in the President’s Dining Room.
Jones’ lecture, “STEM Education for the Anthropocene,” explored the problem of academic needs becoming subordinate to other factors universities deem more important to appeal to student life.
“Some of you that are older probably dug holes as a child,” Jones said. “You get to smell the Earth and learn about the soil profile. When you get into an ecology or biology class, you have internalized the information and it is just a matter of putting names to it.”
This idea is called affective relationships; if someone has a connection to something, they are more likely to develop a sentimental connection toward it, Jones said.
He said this practice has simply disappeared as people are not connected to nature anymore, but rather to technology.
Jones cited daycare as one of the sources that can sometimes limit interactions with natural environments.
“Many households include two parents who are working, which means children sometimes have to be put in daycare,” Jones said. “Daycare has a lot of positive influences like socialization and teaching skills, but it does provoke reactive behavior more than provocative behavior.”
Jones said the issues with the disconnection from nature and lack of a quality education in K-12 and higher education is due to many causes, including the accommodation of education.
“Accommodation of education is a growing trend even in the nonprofit sector,” Jones said. “In looking at colleges as a business, many schools like La Verne are tuition dependent and concentrate more on marketing.”
Jones said the intense competition for students is visible through the advertising and change of character at universities.
Al Clark, professor of humanities, was particularly shocked to see the population number Jones shared to establish perspective for his presentation.
“I remember distinctly in seventh grade a teacher came in and said the world hit 3 billion today,” Clark said. “As Jones pointed out today, it is 7.5 billion, so in my conscious memory the world has more than doubled.”
Jones said student services at schools are steadily increasing while funds for laboratories and other educational purposes continue to dwindle in importance.
Reed Gratz, professor of music, recalled when student services was a responsibility of the faculty.
“There was no such thing as student services 30 years ago,” Gratz said. “In general higher education we now control what our freshmen come in to take…since we have been controlling it for so long. This is a negative trend.”
Quinn Frigeri, sophomore applied statistics major, was particularly struck by images Jones shared of Borneo elephants who were poisoned and killed in Malaysia, because of their unwelcome entry on palm oil plantations.
“I knew palm oil was bad, but I did not know why it was bad,” Frigeri said. “Nothing is worth endangering an entire species over. If you do not believe in certain practices going on you have the power to not support them. We vote with our dollars.”
Anais Espinoza, sophomore English major, said the lecture made her realize the extent and complexity of the world’s problems.
“We have a long way to reform the system we have created and are still creating,” Espinoza said. “There are a lot of steps that need to be taken to change this problem, but since we are so focused on moving forward we keep creating more issues.”
Layla Abbas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.