September 17, 2004

Principles of education (#8)

  1. Learning by reading dense and discomfiting texts: with critical awareness of medium, purpose, and voice, context and subtext, ambiguity and ambivalence.
  2. Learning by talking: discussion, question, and argument should be central to the liberal arts classroom and college ethos.
  3. Learning by doing: research, writing, visual and performing arts, science, etc. Engaged learning defined as theory-into-practice.
  4. Learning by traveling: beyond the self, the familiar, the national, i.e. study abroad or away, fluency in a second language, study of other peoples’ histories, beliefs, and practices.
  5. Learning by connecting: one discipline with another, the classroom with residence and social life, academic knowledge with future life choices.

Our students should develop a level of pre-professional expertise in one subject (an interdisciplinary concentration or a traditional departmental major) and a general knowledge (beyond high-school AP level) of four disciplines from the following divisions: humanities, social sciences, arts, math and natural sciences.
I would be in favor of the following requirements: physical education, writing, foreign language, study abroad or away, and an internship. I would like us to offer a first-year seminar (with the focus on grounding the student at Furman), a sophomore-junior seminar (focused on experiential learning such as study abroad and internships), and a capstone seminar for seniors (focused on graduate-level work in the major or concentration, e.g. a thesis).
I am not in favor of such specific requirements as an African-Asian course or a Religion course. I would reduce the number of courses designed solely as GERs, such as HES 10 or English 12, suggesting that students choose from among upper-level courses to meet divisional requirements. This would encourage them to build on their AP-level knowledge in, say, US History by taking a more specialized course in that area, for example American Women
’s History.
I would propose that we offer core courses as an alternative way to meet the divisional requirements, but I would like us to avoid the
“West versus the rest” construction of most of these core sequences. This would be an opportunity for Furman to develop new interdisciplinary core courses that transcend the outmoded, simplistic, and ideologically suspect West/Non-West split and the limiting disciplinary splits between the arts and sciences. These courses are less likely to become ideological battlegrounds or to ossify if we leave them open to design by a changing contingent of interested faculty and do not require all students to take them.

I like the suggestions put forward . . . for a split-semester schedule. I am convinced by their arguments that this would be the most flexible calendar for Furman
’s diverse courses and teaching philosophies. It would help us to extend study-abroad and internship options to a wider group of students. It would allow professors more choices in balancing teaching and research, and in integrating teaching and research by offering more specialized two-credit courses. The half-term option also would encourage more interdisciplinary collaboration and experimentation.

Campus Life:
Faculty should work more closely with student services, the chaplain
’s office, the residence advisors, athletics, and admissions staff in order to ensure that our vision of liberal education sets the agenda for campus life. The Nominating Committee should assign faculty liaisons to all of these groups. These liaisons would be responsible for reporting to the faculty and conveying our academic priorities to the other constituencies.

Posted by love at September 17, 2004 12:53 PM
Discuss this proposal in the forum, or leave a comment below!