Clark Throws Book at Garbage

By Liepa Bračiulytė in News


Clark students will learn a heap about garbage in the next two years.

“Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash”, a 336-page book written by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Edward Humes, is Clark’s common read from 2014 through 2016.

Janette Clay, the Transitional Studies Learning Communities manager, said the goal of the common read is to bring students, staff and faculty together with a common theme, and to help students make real-world connections to what they are learning in the classroom.

Jill Darley-Vanis, an English professor who used the book in her English 101 class last spring, said the book “shows how trash is tied to the American way of thinking about happiness and capitalism.”

Ian Roy, who took Darley-Vanis’ English class, said the book speaks to how insane Americans are. It caused most of his classmates to significantly question what they’re doing.

The book covers many themes, including environmental impact, social justice, popular culture, consumerism, and of course, how we deal with trash as a nation, Clay said.

The book can be applied to numerous courses, including economics, political science, English, math, women’s studies, biology, geography, among others, Darley-Vanis said.

“It’s a good book because people haven’t thought about it. It’s one of those things that once you see it, you can’t stop seeing it. No matter how much you think you know, it’s eye-opening. It changes the way we see the country we live in, the way you see your own choices.”

The book reports that the average American produces 102 tons of garbage over a lifetime.

The goal of common reads is “to bring students, staff and faculty together with a common theme or purpose,” Clay said. Common reads are meant to help students realize how what they’re learning in class can be applied in the real world. Many common reads “bridge college activities with those in the community.”

“We’re planning on teaming up with ASCC to have some service-learning projects,” Clay said.

Another goal of the common read is to help students make connections between different disciplines. “You shouldn’t go from your economics class to your English class and only have it be by luck that you say, ‘Oh, we were talking about the same thing,’” Darley-Vanis said. “It should be laid out that way so it’s intentional.” Doing so will help students “think in terms of issues instead of in terms of disciplines,” which in turn helps students see the bigger picture of how their education applies to the real world.

Clay said she hopes “Garbology” will impact the way we dispose of our waste as a college.

We already have a composting program, but not every building has a bin, which can be improved, Clay said.

“We might not see a huge impact in the first couple of quarters,” said Heather McAfee, head of the Department of Geography. “I feel that projects will come out of it, because Clark College is filled with so many different students that are motivated and creative, that they will find their voice and use this book as that motivation.”

Picking “Garbology”

The Task Force Learning Committee started with a long list of possible common reads last winter. This was narrowed down to the one book, Clay said. “Garbology” was officially announced in Faculty Focus, a pre-term workshop attended by faculty, as Clark’s common read from 2014 through 2016 in September.

The Task Force Learning Committee consists of 11 faculty members, including Kristin Sherwood, Jill Darley-Vanis, Ray Korpi, Heather McAfee, Tim McPharlin, Julie Robertson, Kira Freed, Mel Favara, Ann Fillmore, Janette Clay and Lindsay Christopher.

The book was chosen because it met many different criteria including readability, Clay said. “You can read just one chapter, or you can read the whole book, and still be able to use the information.”

The book was also chosen because it covers many different themes and can be used in numerous disciplines, Clay said.

“Garbology” was a common read in Hampshire College and California State University. This year, in addition to Clark, Washington State University and University of Central Florida are using the book

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