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February 29, 1988 - Image 28

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1988-02-29

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E _ A T .

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40
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the most open of colleges, dissatisfac-
tion exists. At Brown, long a bastion of
curricular freedom, a full-scale re-
view of the curriculum is under way.
The purpose, says Sheila Blumstein,
dean of the undergraduate college, is
"to look objectively where we are now
and find the weak areas." But she
denies wanting to counter the school's
liberal, liberal-arts tradition.
More than numbers: There is much
more to today's revisionism than
arithmetic. There is a quest to inte-
grate all of the different facets of
study into something greater than the
sum of its parts. Some colleges have
long demanded that all students take
the same general-education courses
in a "common core." Now the idea is
gaining new support. Gerald Lalonde,
a classics professor at Grinnell, advo-
cates that his college adopt a common
core because it "produces an esprit
among students. I remember when
Humanities 101 and 102 were re-
quired and students were reading
'The Iliad' at the time. The exchange
of ideas was very interesting."
Columbia pioneered this approach
in 1919. At any given time, half of
both the freshman and sophomore
classes are taking one introductory
course, Literature Humanities, while
the rest of the freshmen and sopho-
mores are taking another, Contempo-
rary Civilization. The program offers
an ancillary dividend, says Russ Gla-
zer, a senior history major at
Columbia, because "professors in
other courses can take for granted
that students have been exposed to

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*1

S

-_ - 7

Under siege: Universities draw fire from commissions, think tanks and experts
quired in the program. (The popularity of the core approach [certain] fundam
remains high, because it's educational Play-Doh and can be mold- Some schools
ed in many ways.) At Penn, for example, 10 courses must now be academic turf. TI
taken instead of six. It's a little like ordering food in a Chinese the required gro
restaurant-one entree from each column-only now students general educatio
must consume more food for thought. ral science and s
Strong converts: Some of the strongest converts to this approach consist of two se
can be found at outposts of technological education. MIT recently Content includes
boosted its general-education requirements in hopes of creating the arts; skills in
more scientists who understand humanities, and vice versa. And By increasing th
the new president of Georgia Tech, John Patrick Crecine, has within those gro
introduced a broad vision of education to the Atlanta campus. in some unpopu
"The skills an educated person needs to operate on the profession- Charles Middlet
al level encompass both technology and the liberal arts," says Sciences, "is that
Crecine. "It's not enough anymore to educate narrowly as engi- curriculum will t
neers or liberal-arts majors." Not everyone at Georgia Tech thinks and mandate mo
this is worth extra effort. "Adding requirements is a step too far. It Other schools
already takes a lot of people more than four years to graduate from learning. The th
this place," says junior industrial-engineering student Dirk Bot- corresponding to
terbusch. "Adding more work would be an unnecessary burden for ask, for exampl
the students who have no interest in the liberal arts." Venice" without
All of this activity gives liberal-arts colleges occasion to feel toward Jews in t
smug. "I think that change [elsewhere in higher education] has taught courseson
made it easier for Wellesley to say, 'Hey, we were right all along'," Mind, have been
says the college's Dean of Students Molly Campbell. But even in ary majors at W
10 NEWSWEEK ON CAMPUS

ental ideas and build on them."
have found intriguing new ways to carve up the
hey're trying to reorganize knowledge or, at least,
ups. The University of Colorado once divided
n into the three basic groups-humanities, natu-
ocial science. Starting this fall, the program will
ctions-content and skills-and 11 categories.
cultural and gender diversity and literature and
clude written communication and mathematics.
e number of groups, and decreasing the options
ups, officials will force Colorado students to study
lar disciplines. "The fact of the matter," says
on, associate dean of CU's College of Arts and
students don't study what they ought to. The new
ake away the free electives from the curriculum
re structured coursework."
have taken on the mission of interdisciplinary
esis: knowledge does not exist in discrete chunks
the university structure of departments. They
e, how one can understand "The Merchant of
knowing something about Christian attitudes
he 16th century. At Southern Methodist, team-
agiventheme,suchas ThoughtIV: The Homeless
in place since 1979. The number of interdisciplin-
ellesley has gone from five in 1974 to 16 today,
MARCH 1988

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