When our department met in early October, one item on the agenda was a reminder that your committee had begun its work and was ready to receive input from faculty. One of our members suggested that it would be helpful for us to meet for the specific discussion of the issues with which you are wrestling and with a goal of helping each of us clarify our own feelings and ideas. We thought this idea had merit and decided to devote an afternoon to conversation on these topics.
Our group very quickly discovered the vast array of possibilities for modification or even replacement of the current model for General Education Requirements. Far from achieving any agreement about the model for GERs in a new or revised curriculum, there was considerable sentiment for having at least some aspects of the distribution model for required courses. While no detailed suggestions arose, what did develop was complete agreement that whatever model arises, a mathematics course experience would be an essential component. What the content of that course or courses might be would need to be developed in light of student degree programs, pre-requisite linkages and a number of other concerns. It was interesting to note the unanimity with which the faculty agreed upon this central issue.
In our view, a student cannot claim to have received a liberal arts education unless that education includes some experience with mathematics, for mathematics meets the requirements of such an education many times over. A liberal arts education is one which provides critical thinking skills, as opposed to purely vocational training, and of course mathematics thoroughly develops such things as quantitative analysis and logical reasoning. These thinking skills are broadly applicable and interdisciplinary, and mathematics clearly plays an essential role in the physical and social sciences, among other disciplines. But, a liberal arts education should also provide an understanding of our world culture and its historical development, and the role mathematics plays in meeting this requirement is often overlooked, if not completely unknown. In a mathematics course, even an introductory one, students are exposed to some of the greatest intellectual achievements and thinkers of mankind. And, it must be noted, these achievements have roots in essentially every cultural community. Their subsequent evolution and further discovery may be the best illustration for our students of the collaboration possible from so many diverse sources when all are in pursuit of mathematical truth. These achievements have not only revolutionized things which constantly and thereby directly affect the culture and commerce of the world, but have also challenged and reshaped some of mankindís fundamental philosophical notions. Moreover, mathematics is a universal language, a rare common culture transcending time, geography and political boundaries in a way that few other disciplines can. The mathematics of today includes the mathematics of two millennia ago, and in studying mathematics, a student is studying part of the history and heritage of cultures throughout the global community.
One other topic generated rare unanimity among our faculty; it was that to provide the best possible opportunity for learning mathematics the standard semester model for calendar is much preferred to the current one. While it was noted that the calendar issue was not independent of the other questions, it was of sufficient concern to all that we wanted that position communicated clearly.
We all agreed that your task is well-described as being monumental. And, we hope you know that your efforts on behalf of the faculty and future Furman students is very much appreciated by our department.