Suggestion for the Sciences

Since the inception of the general education program in 1948 considerable progress has been made to increase the merit of lower level Gen. Ed. courses. This improvement has been most noticeable, perhaps, in the area of Natural Sciences, where a tendency towards dilettantism is certainly inviting. Nat. Sci. courses have gradually been strengthened, new ones added, and more capable teachers put on the staff.

One criticism of the Nat. Sci. program which has long confronted the advocates of general education, however, is that science concentrators should not be exempted from a lower level Nat. Sci. requirement. This cry came mainly from the Social Science and Humanities concentrators who felt that they were treated unjustly and that, if they had to take lower-level Gen. Ed. courses in their area, the science major should be compelled to do likewise.

The scientists quickly pointed out that the science major is far too busy in his own field to waste time on the elementary trivia with which the Nat. Sci. courses, by their very nature, must deal, and therefore should not be forced to spend a year at the lower level.

While this argument is true to a large extent, it also contains an implicit suggestion for improving both the science concentrator and the scope of the general education program. Development of upper level Nat. Sci. courses has failed to keep pace with that of lower level courses. With the exception of a half course in the history and philosophy of physics, Nat. Sci. 120, they have all been rather uninteresting and have done more to further the use of the word "gut" than any other set of courses.

Also, the fact that the science concentrator is extremely involved with intricate technicalities and problems of his field suggests that he might well profit from the broadening effects of a course in the philosophy and history of science. Since to understand fully the implications of scientific theories one must be at a rather advanced level, it is logical that such a course in history and philosophy should not be undertaken until at least the junior year.

The general education program, then, in order to strengthen its own upper level Nat. Sci. courses and to give the science major a more liberal orientation in his field should organize three full courses in the philosophy and history of physics, chemistry and biology. They should probably be modeled on the approach used in Nat. Sci. 120, with each science concentrator required to take one, presumably the one pertaining to his own field. The other General Education requirements would remain unchanged.

By offering such a course in each of the three major scientific areas, the General Education department would do a job which, under existing conditions, would probably not get done inside the individual departments. It would also improve itself by extending the principles of General Education into an area where they have been lacking for many years.

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