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WITHIN THE NEXT two months James Q. Wilson, Shattuck Professor of Government and chairman of the Task Force on Core Curriculum, will probably present legislation to the Faculty calling for the formation of committees to study the feasibility of restructuring the General Education program. The committees would work during the summer and report to the Faculty next fall on the possibility of creating specific courses in the eight subject areas the task force proposes to designate as a "core curriculum"--expository writing, mathematical reasoning and its applications, physical sciences, biological sciences, western culture, nonwestern civilizations and culture, political and moral philosophy and modern social analysis.
Since there appears to be widespread dissatisfaction within the Faculty about the present ambiguous nature of the goals and format of the current General Education program, it seems probable that the Faculty will approve the committees that Wilson requests. Such an approval would indicate that the Faculty recognizes the need to discuss the concept of a core curriculum in terms of specific courses and issues. It would also imply that the Faculty acknowledges that the eight fields of study outlined by the task force provide an appropriate basis for the start of that discussion.
The Faculty should therefore be careful about how it phrases any endorsement of these committees. The groups should study the possibility of creating much-needed basic courses, but the Faculty should make it very clear from the outset that they are only investigative groups, and are not charged with proving the necessity for any part of a required core curriculum.
Another concern involves student participation on the committees. Dean Rosovsky, who will be responsible for setting up the groups, said last week that he had not yet though about who he might select, but he added that studnet membership on the task forces set a precedent for student participation on future committees. Wilson said last week, however, that "curricular decisions are Faculty decisions." He also said that the committees will have to have a "limited membership" of five or six persons to operate efficiently and that the one or two students who could be permitted to serve would not be able to adequately represent the entire student body. As an alternative to actual student membership, Wilson recommended that the committees "consult" larger advisory groups with student members, such as the Committee on Undergraduate Education (CUE).
But consultation after conclusions already have been reached is much different from direct involvement in the entire process of deliberation. While two students on a committee admittedly can not hope to speak for all students, six professors can not represent the views of the entire Faculty--nor, certainly, those of the students.
A better alternative would allow appropriate student groups to nominate qualified students directly to the committees. The fact that the committees will meet during the summer and so will not be able to consult with large student groups emphasizes the necessity for such student membership.
The Faculty will have the final say about any curriculum changes, of course, but student reaction to such changes will be a major determinant of their success. Therefore both groups must be directly involved in all stages of the debate--especially during future committee discussion, where specific legislation about core curriculum will be formed.
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