December 11, 2003
TO: Harold Marcuse, Chair, General Education
FROM: Janet Walker, Chair, Department of Film Studies
RE: Proposed Revision of General Education Program
The faculty of the Department of Film Studies has discussed the Proposed Revision of the General Education Workgroup at several faculty meetings, most recently at a meeting of December 5, 2003. We appreciate the Workgroup’s courage, energy, and sheer time spent in taking up the charge to proceed from the June 2001 and May 2002 GE task force recommendations to a plan that can be adopted.
However, we do not support the current proposal. As various Humanities and Fine Arts chairs have pointed out during conversations about the proposal, the document lacks a clear assessment of the problems of the current GE program and lacks as well a clear statement of the GE philosophy behind the proposed changes. We would like to make the further point that, clarity aside, we simply do not agree with the implicit and explicit assumptions that are legible, nor with most of the proposed changes.
Film, television, and new media may be construed as artforms, if only for the purpose of locating Film Studies courses in Area F. But our discipline and certainly our curriculum possess intrinsic features that problematize the current definition of the General Subject Areas. How is our film history sequence any less eligible for the new Historical Studies rubric than any other cultural history course? We know the framers of the discussion identify "non-history" courses as inappropriate to fulfill Area E requirements. But which courses would this target? Would History 87: Japanese History through Art and Literature or History 182E: Korean Art and Archaeology still be fine for Area E since they are offered by the Department of History? Or would these courses be purged for their cultural tinge? And wouldn’t Film Studies 161: Third-World Cinema be just as eligible for Area D as Black Studies 50: Blacks in Media? Our discipline, along with others in and out of our Humanities and Fine Arts Division by their very nature exemplify the value of cross-methodological as well as cross- and inter-disciplinary approaches to science, politics, society, and culture.
Conclusion: Core versus Distribution Model
The Proposed Revision aims to develop a "core" as opposed to a "distribution" model for general education. We acknowledge that the core model, in which a relatively small group of closely controlled courses is offered to the entire student body so that a common educational culture is established, can work in settings where there are resources to support small enrollment, intensive courses. However, we don’t think the core model is the best choice for our campus. Here our great strength is that we have many excellent professors teaching a relatively large number of courses each year, some of which need to be high enrollment in order to serve our sizeable student body. To bring this talent and the resulting new areas of research to general education, we will need a larger pool of approved GE courses. We thus support the establishment of a "distribution model" for general education. The distribution model enhances students’ options for advanced study in a discipline other than the student’s major, and this, we believe, is a positive thing.
The core model also poses the problem of which courses constitute that core and the problem of whether or not to allow "non-listed" courses to satisfy requirements by petition. The intransigence of these problems, and the complexity of their possible solutions, signal the conceptual and practical inadequacy of the core GE model.
On Dec. 12, 2003 there was an exchange of e-mail between GE workgroup chair Harold Marcuse and Film Studies chair Janet Walker:
The fundamental area of disagreement is that we don't support the core model for GE that was recommended by the Task Force. I must admit I am confused about one thing here. Didn't the Senate vote down the GE Task Force Recommendation? If so, then couldn't the Workgroup attempt an alternative plan?
In any case, I still do think the Workgroup document requires a brief statement of philosophy. In the first paragraph of the document you state that your committee reviewed and discussed the Task Force reports and that you achieved "near consensus." But you don't say whether the consensus was for or against the various Task Force findings. We would have appreciated an explicit statement that your committe had decided to advance the core model proposal of the Task Force.
The Task Force recommendation was withdrawn from the balloting prior to being released for a vote, because a) it was not sufficiently precise to be considered an actual implementable proposal, and b) because certain items that had been crucial elements of compromises agreed to by the task force membership were missing from the final proposal. Be that as it may, at the start of our work we decided that we could not and should not attempt to redo the work of the task force. The task force never explicitly considered abandoning the core model of GE. (Although in the previous, 1993-94 revision, which opened up "the list" of courses, this had already implicitly happened.) The feedback we are receiving indicates that there is broad support for an explicit breadth/distribution model, but also trenchant support for a core model. Perhaps, based on the feedback we have received, we can attempt to formulate a philosophy of GE that reflects this. (By the way, this same split runs through the GE work group.) We stated that we achieved consensus or near consensus on "most issues," and that on the others we are presenting a range of options (and questions) that deal with various problems left open in the Task Force report. It is on these that the clear suggestions you offer are most welcome.
Walker response to Marcuse:
I've heard that the workgroup may be considering a combination core/distribution plan. That sounds like a good area to explore.
While I've got your attention, let me ask for two clarifications: First, on the one hand, HFA members feel that reducing the E,F,G requirements would marginalize the humanities and fine arts; on the other you state that *creating* a QGE or interdisciplinary requirement would marginalize and inhibit these areas. How do you reconcile those two statements?
Walker response to Marcuse:
If the QGE courses are in the special subject area (as they are), then there's a good possiblity that the new QGE req. will encourage the continuation or creation of core courses that meet this area requirement as well as a core requirement (doing double duty for students). That would be to the good for the core as far as we're concerned.
What we objected to was more *the implication* that core courses are not interdiciplinary, multicultural, about genders, sexualities, ethnicities etc. In fact they can very well be -- are inevitably? -- such. For example, whiteness is a racialized and/or ethnic concept, not a "normal" state of being. Perhaps the introductory philosophical paragraphs of the finished document can emphasize that the plan is *not* to have a core group of cores parading as value neutral but that are in fact white, heterosexual, and (supposedly) disciplinarily pure.
Also, while your position on "historical studies" (which were certainly never intended to be limited only to history dept. courses--we wonder, for instance, whether philosophy and religious studies would feel that their courses are included under that definition) is clearly stated, I'm wondering whether you support the renaming of F and G with the task force's proposed new descriptions, or whether you would like to retain the current centrality of "master works." Or whether you would like to propose new language? (This question of course goes beyond film studies to all HFA chairs.)
Walker response to Marcuse:
This is a question that I believe bears discussion beyond the workgroup. It's a tough problem. As I mentioned, just because film is viewed (by some) as an artform, that doesn't mean many of our courses aren't textually analytical in the way that literature courses may be.
I agree with your point that this question goes to all HFA chairs since our division has this "arts" and "humanities" split that our department has tried to bridge.