Proposal to Alter Core Curriculum Draws Fire, Praise

Last week, a committee of two undergraduates and six professors released a "Working Paper" outlining changes to the Core curriculum they recommend the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) enact.

In its May meeting, the Faculty is expected to debate the most substantial changes to the Core since its inception in 1974: creating a Quantitative Reasoning course requirement (replacing the current test-out option) in the Core and reducing the number of Core course required from eight to seven. If approved, the changes will go into effect for the class of 2001.

If the Faculty stays true to form, it will follow the recommendation given to it by the Faculty Council, a small group of elected representatives who started discussing the paper at their meeting last week.

Administrators and Faculty members laud the committee's eight months of work and tentatively praise the proposed changes.

Some students, however, expressed dissatisfaction with the CRC's proposed reforms.


"The Core is incapable of maintaining a satisfactory program now. Look at Moral Reasoning for instance," says Dalasini S. Cummings '99. "I think they should work on improving what they have before they try to change anything."

However, administrators counter that the Core is fulfilling a large part of its intention, and the proposed changes will address student dissatisfaction.

"There has been a concern for a while among Faculty and students, a concern about choice," says Dean of FAS Jeremy R. Knowles. "Such a large piece of the curriculum should surely have some elbow room in it, and even with 85 to 100 classes in the Core, there are some semesters, times of day, and subjects which are constraining to your choice."

The 1995-96 school year saw the largest Core course offering in history, but the number of Core classes is now at an all-time low, with Moral Reasoning offering only one class for the Spring semester.

"How well does the actual Core Program stand up?" the CRC's report asks, and after examining such issues as departmental bypasses, class and section size, course selection and the role of senior Faculty, the answer is a resounding "pretty well."

"It's basically two cheers for the Core: it's been doing a good job, but it's been by no means a perfect job," says Sidney Verba '53, chair of the Core Review Committee (CRC) and Pforzheimer University professor. "I think our two biggest reservations were reflected in our two biggest recommendations."


The CRC's most dramatic proposal, noting that "recently, the power of quantitative analysis has been felt in all areas of study," recommends adding Quantitative Reasoning to the 10 current Core areas.

"When they were originally designing the Core, Quantitative Rea- -soning was something they talked about on an equal footing with the existing Core areas," says CRC member Patricia L. Larash '97. "For practical reasons and maybe a little politicking it wasn't included."

The Quantitative Reasoning Requirement (QRR) test, since 1974 a rite of passage for first-years, would be phased out under the CRC's plan, its primary-colored study books deemed "too brief an exposure for our undergraduates, given the clear need for greater fluency in quantitative matters," in the working paper.

"Quantitative Reasoning is certainly worth reconsidering," Larash says. "There's a feeling that an educated person should have some tools and intellectual sophistication to approach a world where quantitative things are so prevalent."

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