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A Flexible First Step For the Core


By Mark T. Whitaker

Harvard's nationally-touted pedagogical return to the "core curriculum" concept of undergraduate education took what many might consider a temporary turn to the more conservative this week.

Taking its first major action on the core project, the full Faculty voted to set up faculty committees to hammer out possible programs in five fairly conventional-sounding core areas.

They are called, at least for now, "Letters and Art," "History," "Social and Philosophical Analysis," "Mathematics and Science," and "Foreign Languages and Cultures."

This means that a more innovative and controversial proposal for eight core areas, put forth this fall by the special Task Force on Core Curriculum, has for now gone by the boards.

Among other things, the eight-area proposal had featured separate hard science requirements in mathematics, physics and the biological sciences, along with a requirement focusing on non-Western cultures.

The primary mover in bringing the number of core areas down to five--and particularly in setting History apart as a separate category--was Bernard Bailyn, Winthrop Professor of History.

Bailyn convinced the Faculty Council last month to propose this format, rather than the eight area division, to the Faculty.

Few of the other Faculty members--including members of the task force that proposed an eight area division--posted objections, though. The group voted down both of the only amendments proposed. Only two faculty members voted against the new proposal.

Its supporters all urged, however, that this temporary format remain open to change and revision, if necessary in the fall.

One professor underscored this sentiment when he told the Faculty that the chief virtue of the motion it voted on was that it was "content-free."

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