Core curriculum 'unworkable' says committee

By Melissa Prentice

Arizona Daily Wildcat

A faculty committee charged with examining general education at the UA suggested in June that although general education requirements need to be standardized, a core curriculum plan is not the solution.

Last November, Provost Paul Sypherd appointed 17 faculty members to serve on the committee to study general education at the university, said Claire Parsons, a nursing professor who served on the committee.

The provost charged the committee with "evaluating the current general education at the UA and possibly recommending the adoption of university-wide general education requirements," Parsons said.

In a report released to the provost June 1, John Kihlstrom, committee chairman, wrote that the core curriculum proposal was "unworkable" at the University of Arizona.

The core curriculum proposal would unify general education requirements for all majors by establishing three required courses in humanities, social sciences and natural sciences.

"We have determined that this is simply unworkable in the environment of a large, public, land-grant university. While a core curriculum may be possible in a small liberal arts college, general education at Arizona can best be accomplished through a framework of selected courses within particular study." Kihlstrom no longer works at the UA and was unavailable for comment.

After Sypherd received the committee's recommendations, he said he would continue planning the implementation of the core curriculum.

In a letter to faculty members Oct. 21, the provost wrote "the president and I will stand firm" on the idea of the core curriculum, but "details of the core curriculum remain open topics." In the letter the provost also asked for input from faculty members and more than 350 faculty members have volunteered to serve on 11 planning committees for various aspects of the core proposal. Sypherd was unavailable for comment yesterday.

However, the original general education committee has not met since its June report. Donald Harper, an East Asian studies professor and committee member, said the committee was "strictly advisory" and not necessarily


tee member, said the committee was "strictly advisory" and not necessarily instrumental in any changes proposed by the administration.

Harper said the committee's recommendation about the core curriculum was based on "different education needs of people going into different areas, which requires a certain amount of flexibility that is not available in the core curriculum."

The committee also considered that the core curriculum might cause various accreditation problems for departments, Harper said.

Parsons said the committee recognized that the core curriculum would add courses to requirements and postpone the length of time needed before graduation.

"I can see the advantages of a core curriculum, but we have to be realistic," she said. "We have to try to allow students to graduate in a reasonable amount of time and this would almost certainly add to course requirements. There are several courses that would be a great benefit to add to the curriculum, but we have to be realistic in providing students with as adequate and pertinent an education as we can provide. (We believe) someone can get a general education without being part of a core."

As an alternative to the core curriculum, the committee recommended establishing university-wide general education requirements. The report states "it is desirable and possible to establish a single framework of basic proficiencies and study areas ... This would serve a unifying function and also facilitate the transfer of students between colleges."

Harper said the requirements would be based on the current requirements in the college of arts and sciences, but would involve "coordination and give and take of all colleges."

Parsons said the committe's recommendation would establish a "minimal number" of shared requirements, probably incorporating about 18 to 20 units. Currently, various departments require between 35 and 49 units of general education courses.

By requiring fewer general requirements and giving various departments lead-way, departments could offer more general education courses within the colleges, Parsons said. She said such courses "may fit more effectively and be more applicable to information about (one's) own discipline."

For example, she said, students interested in health-related professions could be able to satisfy their humanities requirements by taking a medical ethics course, while students in other departments would take different courses that applied to their discipline.

If a college wants to adopt additional requirements, besides those adopted campus-wide, they would become "college requirements," rather than general education requirements. Harper said this may apply to the current four-semester foreign language requirement in arts and sciences.

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