Lecture series keeps ETHS current with speeches by college professors

Paul Thissen and Paul Thissen

Though Northwestern sociology professor Tom Cook is accustomed to addressing crowds, he said he felt different speaking at Evanston Township High School on Thursday.

“The fact that there are so many high school students here fills me with terror,” Cook said. “I’m an egghead, and I spend most of my time talking to other eggheads.”

Cook spoke to an audience of about 40 students, teachers and parents at ETHS as part of the Keeping Current lecture series, a 4-year-old program that brings university professors to ETHS. Cook addressed the interconnected roles of schools, families, neighborhoods and peer groups in the development of young people. He discussed his research on how students in inner-city schools often have difficulties and argued that disadvantaged and immigrant students at ETHS might face similar problems.

Cook said many aspects of students’ environment lead to success or failure. Different social and ethnic groups hold various views on family and education, which can strain the relationship between school and home.

“I think that when people analyze schools, they often don’t look at how outside forces affect education,” said Freda Lin, a history teacher at ETHS. “I think it was good that he discussed their relationship.”

For each lecture in the ETHS series, a professor speaks for about an hour, answers audience questions and then has dinner with teachers to discuss the issues more in depth.

The lecture series initially was funded by a $10,000 grant from NU, and ETHS may be seeking more funding from the university and other sources to continue the series.

David Futransky, a history and social science teacher at ETHS who helped develop the program, said the series provides advanced learning opportunities for students. Teachers also use extra credit to increase student attendance.

“Our high school students can get exposure to college professors to get an idea of what college lectures might be like,” Futransky said.