Thursday, January 11, 2007

Do we need a stronger core curriculum?

I just read this article by a Hoover Institute Scholar who proposes that a liberal arts education needs to be premised on a very strict core curriculum. He argues that the academy needs to recover J.S. Mill's concept of "many-sidedness" needs to be restored to the curriculum. Mill is quoted as saying the goal of university should be:

that which it is the chief of all the ends of intellectual education to qualify us for — the exercise of thought on the great interests of mankind as moral and social beings — ethics and politics, in the largest sense.

The article then presents a very conservative vision of what a core should look like, focused heavily on western history and foreign language. He blames everyone for compromising their standards, but particularly picks up the old stereotype of liberal professors indotrinating their students.

I don't necesssarily agree with his conclusions, but it does raise some very important issues.


Anonymous said...

Ahh, the old, "Many-sidedness is achieved by reading only a bunch of dead, white guys" argument.

lammers said...

This view is not surprising. Old generals want more horse-mounted cavalry, and old admirals want more wooden sailing ships, too.

As far as I'm concerned, the content or subject matter of a liberal arts education is not important. It is the attitude underlying it and the processes and methods involved in acquiring it that are of paramount importance. These things can be learned while studying any number of topics.

Anonymous said...

I thought the point oflinking the article was to try and generate a debate on whether this campus should design a well rounded coure curriculum or stick to the current "smorgabord" approach.

A second key point of the article is just what is a liberal arts education? A fair point as many (biut not all) profs in L and S defend liberal arts education without ever defining what they mean by that term.

If you want to hold the Petras of this world at bay than maybe you ought to have a serious discussion on those topics.

And no, core curriuclum does not mean only dead white guys.