Do you remember when Donald Rumsfeld infamously invoked “unknown unknowns,” the things we “do not know we don’t know,” to link the Iraqi government with weapons of mass destruction? Well, that always made about as much sense to me as a pile of kittens until it was quoted by Dr. John Ehrenfeld, commencement speaker at the Marlboro College Graduate and Professional Studies graduation last weekend. It was the sixteenth commencement for the graduate program and an auspicious venue for Dr. Ehrenfeld, renowned industrial ecologist, retired MIT professor, and beloved professor of sustainability at Marlboro for five years.
According to Dr. E, author of the new book Flourish: A Frank Conversation about Sustainability, our man Rumsfeld’s unknown unknowns are the difference between “complicated” systems and “complex” systems. He argued that conflating these two kinds of systems is one of the challenges facing global sustainability, and that the Marlboro graduates assembled that day were uniquely equipped to know the difference. I would argue that Dr. E’s probably right, because many of them had taken his Exploring Sustainability courses at Marlboro.
Not only was this commencement notable because it was the 16th and because John Ehrenfeld is awesome and because it is the first year for graduates from the Master of Arts in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages program. It was also the commencement of two students who had also received their bachelor’s degree from Marlboro. We call these students participants in the dual degree program, also known by me as “can’t get enough of a good thing.” Sarah Scheff ’11 (pictured right) received her Master of Science in Management: Mission Driven Organizations and Jonathan Wood ’12 received his Master of Arts in Teaching: Social Justice. Now that’s what I call a “knowing knowing.”