The Daily Pennsylvanian is a student-run nonprofit.

Please support us by disabling your ad blocker on our site.

Today, the faculty of the College of Arts and Sciences will vote on a proposal to test an experimental curriculum, beginning with 200 students in the Class of 2004. Over the past semester, we have worked with the Committee on Undergraduate Education to formulate the pilot program, which we believe improves upon the existing General Requirement in several important respects. Some have asked if 10 courses can realistically be condensed into four. The answer is, of course, no. The four-course sequence at the heart of the CUE proposal does not represent a an attempt to condense the existing General Requirement but an effort to redefine the purpose of the requirement. The new courses aim to introduce students to a spectrum of ideas and perspectives and move away from the notion that knowledge can be neatly categorized or bounded. The goal is to spark the interest of students in both disciplines and interdisciplinary perspectives that they may wish to explore further. And by cutting the required 10 courses to four, the pilot program gives students the ability to pursue interests to a greater extent than was previously possible. Students can use those six course slots to explore the offerings of a particular department in depth, pursue interdisciplinary courses of study or simply experiment. The course sequence also aims to introduce students to the conflicts that exist within the spectrum of knowledge, both between the ways that different disciplines examine subjects and within academic disciplines. The CUE proposal also provides for multiple avenues of inquiry. In addition to investigating natural science, social science and humanities phenomena from a variety of disciplinary perspectives, the four course categories all make mention of the need to understand the tensions and conflicts -- produced by both social context and academic discourse -- inherent in the processes of creating and applying knowledge. Examples of this approach in the proposed curriculum may include teaching students about the conflicts between slavery and democracy, nuclear power and nuclear holocaust, and theology and cosmology. Such multidisciplinary exploration exemplifies the approach espoused by CUE; the need to establish a reflective learning process is a critical component of the proposal. The proposed curriculum will also introduce students to the idea of disciplinary knowledge: the idea that the way historians understand a given period, economists a recession or physicists the universe is a product of an ongoing debate in an academic community where various perspectives are represented. The importance of interdisciplinary study in the pilot curriculum extends beyond the introductory four-course sequence. In calling for students to explore ideas from two or more angles via minors, dual majors, abroad programs or thematic semesters, CUE has moved to inject excitement into the General Requirement over considerations of starting salary after graduation. Students, rather than being forced into learning for their resumZ's sake, are to be given the encouragement, advising and class resources to learn for learning's sake. This may not work. But the experiment is worth the effort. A pilot program, carefully evaluated for five years for a limited number of students, has the tremendous potential to tell us things about our current system, help us develop possibilities for future schemas and provide insight into the very way in which we have and would like to learn. The faculty and staff on the committee have developed a framework in which this effort can begin. College faculty should realize that it is by no means the end of a process but rather a well-thought-out beginning.

Comments powered by Disqus

Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.