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The Bard College Language & Thinking Program

The Bard College Language & Thinking Program, founded in 1981, is an intensive introduction to the liberal arts and sciences with a particular focus on writing. It is attended by all incoming Bard students during the last three weeks of August. Students read extensively, work on a variety of projects in writing and other formats, and meet throughout the day in small groups and in one-on-one conferences with faculty. The work aims to cultivate habits of thoughtful reading, clear articulation, accurate self-critique, and productive collaboration. 

The creation of the Program was a response to the problem of inadequate literacy among students, first explored in A Nation at Risk, a 1983 report written by the National Commission on Excellence in Education. Bard College President, Leon Botstein, characterized entering students’ writing at the time as preoccupied with correctness at the expense of substance.

Botstein met Peter Elbow at a conference on “The Crisis of Authority in Education” at the Annenberg Center in the University of Southern California. Elbow, the author of Writing without Teachers and Writing with Power, argued for freeing students from their internal editor and developing writing practices that allowed students to put greater emphasis on invention, critical thinking, and discovering one’s own ideas. Inspired by Elbow’s boldness, Botstein invited Elbow to design the three-week, pre-semester Workshop in Language and Thinking, as it originally was called. 

The Language and Thinking Program’s emphasis on collaboration, active learning, experimentation, playfulness, and inquiry across the disciplines has become the hallmark of the Bard College Institute for Writing & Thinking’s workshops both domestically and internationally as IWT Faculty Associates work with faculty, teachers and students to use classroom writing to deepen learning across all subject areas.