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Profs Call for Study Of Past in Gen Ed

By Madeline M.G. Haas, Crimson Staff Writer

At least 35 professors are backing an amendment that would explicitly include “the study of the past” in the legislation implementing the proposed new general education curriculum.

The amendment will likely be taken up at next Tuesday’s meeting of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Along with nine other amendments released to professors yesterday, the history proposal represents significant faculty concern about a general education program that Harvard’s leaders are hoping will be approved by professors by the end of the academic year.

The amendment aims both to insert “history” into the title of the proposed “Culture and Belief” category and to ensure that the other seven categories include a study of the past, History Department Chair Andrew D. Gordon ’74 said in an interview. The legislation currently lacks an explicit history requirement.

Passage of the legislation in a Faculty meeting vote would start a process that would replace the current Core Curriculum with a new set of eight required general education categories emphasizing “real-world” applications of academic learning by as early as Fall 2008.

But first, professors will have to contend with no fewer than 10 proposed changes to the legislation in the course of the three remaining regular Faculty meetings on the schedule for this spring.

Another amendment calls for the new general education program to encourage study in languages other than English.

“[Gen ed] aims to teach students to be citizens to the world,” said Virginie Greene, professor of Romance languages and literatures, who co-authored the amendment with Werner Sollors, the Cabot professor of English Literature and of African and African American Studies. “We have to take account in general education that the whole world doesn’t speak English.”

The Crimson did not obtain copies of all the finalized amendments themselves. 300th Anniversary University Professor Laurel T. Ulrich, a member of the Faculty’s 19-member governing body, said the amendments mostly deal with a “clarification of categories.” She added that many were drafted by groups of professors spanning different departments, citing two amendments proposed by the Caucus of Chairs, an informal group of about 25 department chairs.

“They gave some serious attention to pooling ideas so that there wasn’t just a scattershot of amendments,” Ulrich said.

According to Economics Chair James H. Stock, the Caucus amendments address two areas: the body that will oversee general education courses, and the details of the requirements themselves.

Some of the amendments dealt with smaller details of phrasing. Physics Chair John Huth proposed that the words “real world” be omitted from a category dealing with the sciences, Gordon said.

Gordon also voiced concern about how the categories in the legislation, which is based on the general education report finalized in February, were defined. “One thing that’s not completely clear to me is, if there’s a list of three to four things that courses in one category have to achieve, to what extent is each of them essential?”

—Lois E. Beckett contributed to the reporting of this story.

—Staff writer Madeline M.G. Haas can be reached at

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