Making a pun on the culinary arts, the University of Michigan Bicentennial Office held a Feast of Ideas on Thursday night, providing an “intellectual sampler” of short talks representing some of the University’s academic offerings.

More than a dozen University staff and professors went to local businesses around Ann Arbor as part of one of the University’s bicentennial celebrations intended to highlight the University’s impact and contributions to the community-at-large.

The multi-part event featured a diverse lineup of professors, providing expertise in all areas of the University.

In a University press release, Michelle French, associate director of the Bicentennial Office, said the event was intended to strengthen the ties between the Ann Arbor community and the University it houses.

“We want to provide a sampling of what our students experience every day in the classroom,” she said. “We’re pleased to work with local merchants to connect the campus with the community.”

Barry Fishman, a professor in the Schools of Information and Education, gave one such talk — “School is a Game … But is it a GOOD game?” –– at 826michigan, a writing workshop that provides free tutoring for K-12 students in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Detroit.

In his talk, Fishman criticized the way the K-12 system is designed, saying it discourages risk-taking and intellectual creativity. Asking the audience what they most wanted out of education or their children’s education, many audience members agreed that student engagement and investment in the learning process were most important.

“Where high school used to be preparation for college, it is now preparation for your college application,” Fishman said. “The fear is that if I make one mistake, I won’t be able to apply to the college I want.”

Suggesting education should be designed like a game, Fishman stated any successful video game also provides a good learning environment.

“A really good game gets you involved to the level where you feel like you’re a partner with the character, or you are the character,” he said. “I would argue that’s actually the ultimate aim of literature, or science or anything. When students are in science class, you want them to be thinking like a scientist, and that’s a very important challenge.”

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