Students Echo Faculty Concerns

Students say new Gen Ed should not be a renamed core

The effort to revamp the core curriculum “will not amount to any meaningful change” unless the final General Education report includes more stringent guidelines about which courses will count under the new requirements, three undergraduate focus groups concluded yesterday.

In a letter sent to the Task Force on General Education, the students expressed broad support for the task force’s philosophy of general education as preparation for life after Harvard.

In contrast, the current core emphasizes exposure to different academic approaches to knowledge.

But the students expressed concern that the proposed categories could become little more than a renamed core.

Without concrete guidelines, “many professors will continue to teach a disproportionate number of overly specialized, specific classes that speak to their particular research interests rather than the more broadly stated goals of General Education,” the letter reads.

Students also approved the removal of the controversial “Reason and Faith” requirement, which was dropped from the Gen Ed proposal this December after faculty opposition.

Again echoing faculty criticism, the students wrote that a proposed requirement for a course on “what it means to be a human” could “conceivably encompass any course the college might offer.”

The task force proposed this additional category in a December letter.

Thirty undergraduates were chosen from a pool of about 50 to participate in the General Education focus groups, which were organized by students on the Committee on Undergraduate Education (CUE), according to CUE representative Patrick Mauro ’07.

The six-professor task force has promised to release their final report this month.

“The comments will certainly be helpful to the task force as we prepare the final version of our report,” task force co-chair and Bass Professor of English and American Literature and Language Louis Menand wrote in an e-mail yesterday.

—Staff writer Lois E. Beckett can be reached at