September 17, 2004

A somewhat revised curriculum (#6)

The following draft toward a somewhat revised curriculum assumes that Furman would change to a semester calendar and that students would take 4 courses per term. Each semester would consist of thirteen weeks of classes, a reading period, and a final exam period. Earning a degree would mean meeting all of the general education requirements, fulfilling the major requirements, and taking a total of 32 courses (4 of which might be met through AP credit). (This curriculum assumes there would not longer be a Cultural Life Program). Typically classes would meet three times a week (MWF) for fifty-minute periods or twice a week (TH) for 75-minute periods. Half-term courses could be offered. The teaching load would be 5 courses a year, with no one teaching more than 3 courses a semester.

This revised curriculum assumes that, on the whole, the general education requirements are a good idea but could be cut back some. It assumes that Furman professors have been hired with the general education requirements in mind and have become accustomed to—though perhaps frustrated with—teaching courses that fit these requirements. The cutting back, though there is not much, is meant to give the students more time—in some cases perhaps even allowing a student a year away from Furman but perhaps under Furman auspices pursuing something like the “Chew” experience. The expansion of the Asian/African requirement is an attempt to enlarge the students’ and Furman’s thoughtfulness about the world. What follows imagines interdisciplinary first-year courses and an expanded—in course time and in scope—Humanities sequence. Although not everyone would need to become involved in such interdisciplinary courses, such courses could help to make Furman a more intellectually stimulating place for students. This draft also assumes a change in calendar—in hopes of getting away from the numbing pace of winter term, in hopes of providing a break from the daily meetings of our current calendar, and in hopes that being flexible about when semesters begin and end might help overcome some of the problems a change to semesters might seem to create.

(This curriculum tinkers with the general education requirements, the first-year experience, and the calendar. Can we do more to help the students to focus on being intellectually vigorous and more thoughtful about the world? For instance, should Furman follow Williams’ lead on fraternities and sororities? And what can we learn about making Furman more attractive to international students?)

The General Education Requirements (10-14 courses out of 32):

To be taken during the first year:
1 writing-focused course (Either a writing class like those presently provided in English 11 or another first-year course that is writing focused. Writing focused would mean that the course required at least twenty pages of writing and that essays would be required on a regular basis [a least once every three weeks but preferably more often].)
1 HES course (presumably like the current HES 10)
To be taken at the discretion of the student:
3 humanities courses not in one
’s major (History, Literature, Philosophy, Religion)
2 science and/or math courses in the sciences and math not in one
’s major (Biology, Chemistry,
Geology, Math, Physics)
2 social science courses not in one
’s major (Anthropology, Economics, Political Science,
Psychology, Sociology)
1 or 2 courses in a foreign language not one
’s major. At least one course for those who place
above what is the current 12 level (a literature course can also count as a humanities
course); at least two courses for those who place at the current 11 level or start a language
from the beginning.
1 course in fine arts
3 courses focusing on subject matter relating to Asia, Africa, and/or Latin America (Australia?)
(any of these courses could count also toward GER or major requirements)

(A note about AP credit:
AP credit could not count toward completion of any of the general education requirements, except
that in the case of foreign languages an AP score might help determine if a student needed to take
only one course to meet the requirement. As many as 4 AP course credits could count toward
graduation, in most cases as general education credit; departments could decide if AP credit would
count toward major requirements.)

A major at Furman would preferably consist of 10 courses—with students allowed to take nor more than
12 courses within the major (unless additional hours involve foreign study).
There would be no minor.
The typical student could take around 8 elective courses. Decisions about foreign study and concentrations
would of course affect the student
’s freedom to take courses.

The first-year experience in terms of course work:
The general education requirements would ask the students complete a writing-focused course and an HES course by the end of the first year.
The faculty would make available a number of First-Year Experience courses (here logistics as well as faculty willingness could affect what Furman can do). These would be team-taught, interdisciplinary courses (for example, The Science and Politics of Ecology in South Carolina, Jesse James: The History and the Stories, Creations Stories and Economics, Memory and Autobiography, Scruples: The Ethics of Management, Being Good as Opposed to Doing Good, The Executive Branch and the Political Novel, Arriving Late?: Nationalism in the Global Era). The teachers could decide whether the course was writing focused or not. The teachers would so structure the course that it would require work equivalent
—in terms of reading, studying, thinking, writing—to that of two semester courses. A student would receive two course credits for taking such a course. In many cases—as determined by a First-Year Experience Curriculum committee and agreed to by the teachers’ departments—such a course could help a student meet two of the general education requirements. The capacity of each class would be 18. (Teachers would receive credit for teaching two courses; no one could teach such a course as an overload. Summer grants would be given to those developing such courses.)
The faculty would also make available a course called Humanity (in the senses of people, civilizations, and kindness), a two-year, chronological sequence that would earn credit for two courses a term (a total of 8 semester courses). A reworking of the current Humanities sequence, the course would expand the current western focus of the course to balance the kind of material now covered with material from Asia, Africa, and Latin America. The course would not be writing focused, though essays would be required. Offered to a class of one hundred students, it would meet three days a week (MWF) for whole-group lecture discussions and twice a week (TH) for discussion groups, each led by one of the teachers. Each semester of the course would have five primary teachers
—with at least two having been chiefly trained in focusing on non-American (U. S. A.) and non-European material. Guest teachers would lecture as needed. Planning during the summer and meeting regularly as they teach, the teachers of the sequence would develop and present courses that encourage appreciative critical understanding of the accomplishments and frustrations of some of the world’s civilizations—in terms of literature, religion, philosophy, political history, and science and technology. By taking the entire sequence, the student would meet all three of the humanities requirements, two of the non-Western requirement, and one of the science/math requirements. If the student majors in a humanities discipline, the course could also meet one of the course requirements for that major. The two or three remaining course units would count as electives. (For each semester taught in this course, the teachers would be credited with two courses. Guest lecturers would receive suitable honorariums. Support would be provided for work needed during the summer. No one overloading could teach one of these courses.)

Some possible first semester course loads for first-year students:
Student A: A writing-focused course: English 11?
A course that helps fulfill the humanities requirement: Religion 11?
A course that helps fulfill the science/math requirement: Biology 16?
An HES course
Student B: Humanity 1 (one course receiving two-course credit)
First-Year Experience course (The Executive Branch and the Political Novel): writing
intensive and a course helping to meet the social science requirement (one course receiving two-course credit)
Student C: First-Year Experience course (The Science and Politics of Ecology)
—not writing
intensive but helping to fulfill both the science/math and social science
A writing-intensive course: English 11?
A humanities course: History 11?

Posted by love at September 17, 2004 11:04 AM
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