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Gen Ed Survey Reveals Divided Views on Courses

By David Beach

The final results of the general education survey released this week by Francis M. Pipkin, associate dean of the Faculty for Harvard and Radcliffe Colleges and chairman of the Committee on General Education, reveal that the 114 existing courses fall into three groups in terms of their appropriateness for general education.

A first group consists of roughly 20 courses considered by almost three fourths of the student and faculty respondents to conform to the ideals of general education. [See chart of survey results on page 5.]

The survey indicated a second group of 18 courses that approximately one-fourth of the respondents wished to see listed under general education.

Mixed Opinions

A third group contains 76 courses over which respondents were evenly split as to their appropriateness for Gen Ed.

Pipkin said yesterday the large size of the second and third groups shows that "most of the courses listed under Gen Ed probably don't belong there."

Pipkin undertook the survey to provide information for the upcoming faculty debate on the report released last fall of the Task Force on the Core Curriculum.

The task force, chaired by James Q. Wilson, Shattuck Professor of Government, stated that there is "a vague commitment to the general education but great uncertainty as to what that commitment implies or of what general education consists."

The Faculty is now beginning to consider the task force's proposal to give structure to Gen Ed by creating a more clearly defined core curriculum containing courses in eight definite subject areas.

Wilson said last week that the debate on this proposal will center around the Faculty's discussion of what the term "general education" means.

Pipkin said yesterday that, while the survey found there was no consensus on whether the majority of current Gen Ed courses are suitable to fill Gen Ed requirements, the fact that a small number of courses were judged appropriate by most respondents is evidence that most people share similar views on what general education should be.

Pipkin said that if he were to select courses for a program of general education he would start with the present courses that over 75 per cent judged were correctly placed under the Gen Ed heading.

Pipkin circulated his survey last month to 100 faculty members, to instructors of Gen Ed courses, and to students on various committees in the University. The survey consisted of a questionnaire which listed all Gen Ed courses and asked people to classify them as "appropriate for general education" or as to fit them into three other non-Gen Ed categories.

One problem with the survey, Pipkin said yesterday, is that respondents judged the courses primarily on the basis of course descriptions in the catalogue. As a result, some courses that have a conceptual approach to subject matter which is proper for Gen Ed but that have a catalogue listing which describes a specialized field may be judged inappropriate, Pipkin said.

The Task Force on the Core Curriculum is one of seven task forces appointed by Dean Rosovsky to review undergraduate education at Harvard.

Three task forces have already issued reports--on core curriculum, concentrations and college life.

Charles P. Whitlock, coordinator of the task forces and associate dean of the Faculty for special projects, said Thursday that the Task Forces on Composition of the Student Body and Pedagogical Improvement will release reports in March.

The advising and counseling task force will likely report later this spring, and the educational resources task force may be delayed until next fall, Whitlock said.

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