DATE: Nov. 19, 2003
TO: General Education Workgroup
FROM: Carol Genetti, Chair Department of Linguistics
RE: Linguistics Department's response to proposed revision to GE program
The faculty of the Department of Linguistics discussed the October 30th
proposed revision to the GE program at a faculty meeting on November 12th.
Overall, the faculty found the revisions to be problematic and the wording
of certain areas of the document to be confusing and unclear. The faculty
did not view the new proposal favorably, and if it were put to a vote
in its current form, the entire department faculty would vote against
it. We hope that the following comments will be useful to the committee
in considering how to rework the proposal.
- Statement of Goals of GE
|I hate to
disappoint you, but the work group was charged only with figuring
out how to implement the GE Task Force's proposal (charge
memo). Of course we needed to discuss our own position on
the purpose of GE, and we quickly determined that the wide range
of our own positions mirrored the diversity among the faculty
as a whole. Thus the 10/30/03 discussion document quoted only
the existing rationale as published in the UCSB general catalog
text; disc. doc.)
However, I can say there was not strong support among
us that GE should provide students with a "specific body
of knowledge" (some members did express guarded support for
this postion, however). On the contrary, most of us realized that
it would be impossible to attain agreement on a body of specific
content knowledge. If anything, we might agree upon a
set of academic/intellectual skills all students should be exposed
to, as well as certain broad content areas. Our implementation
recommendations reflect this.
discussion document does NOT propose significant structural changes:
the core areas C-G remain unchanged. The implementation suggestions
propose updating and clarifying definitions, slight shifts in
the balance among core areas, and administrative improvements
that would ensure that the system does not lose its intellectual
coherence, as has unintentionally happened since the 1993 revision.
The current document does not provide any overall statement of the
purpose of GE as viewed by the committee, instead providing the catalog
copy and the Provost's statement from the GE brochure. Has the catalog
statement been the basis for the proposed revisions, or has the GE committee
been working with other conceptions of GE, such as providing students
with a specific body of knowledge? Rather than citing catalog copy,
the proposal would benefit from a clear statement of the committee's
perspective on the goals of GE, and a statement of how the proposed
changes are in line with that perspective.
The GE document would also benefit from the committee's assessment
of the problems with the structure of the current GE program and whether
the suggested revisions address those problems. Many of the problems
that I have heard discussed, such as the overall number of courses,
lack of appropriate administration of the program, and courses that
don't meet the structural criteria, can be addressed without changing
the structure of GE. What is the rationale for changing the GE program
independent of such concerns?
- Area D: Social Sciences
note that the current list of courses satisfying Area D contains
several high-enrollment courses with little social science content,
so that many students satisfy this requirement with scant exposure
to the social sciences. We feel that a more stringent definition
would place these courses in other, more appropriate areas and
thereby raise the quality of social science education for many
students, even if they are required to complete fewer courses.
is no "new focus on methodology." The proposed
core area definitions simply make more transparent the basis according
to which courses are placed in a given area. The present definitions
for Areas D and E are so vague that basically ANY HFA or Social
Science course can qualify for BOTH areas! CUAPP sees this VERY
often in the confusion faculty have in selecting an area in which
to propose their courses. So the answer is: yes, of course ethnology
would count in Area D!
(Please see also Workgroup member Dan Montello's comment midway
down in the 2/21/03 minutes of our follow-up discussion about
the 2/14 meeting with MLPS chairs. link)
The Linguistics faculty does not approve of the reduction of social
science courses from 3 to 2; one year's worth of social science courses
seems like a minimum that we should require of our students.
The faculty also objects to the new focus on methodology. What is the
rationale for focusing on the methodology as opposed to the content
of social science disciplines? Of course, one cannot talk about content
and major findings without also incorporating some discussion of methodology,
but we wonder why the shift in focus from content to method is appropriate
at the GE level. We also wonder who determines which methodologies will
be considered appropriate for GE. Is the emphasis to be primarily on
quantitative methodologies, or would ethnology, for example, also count?
In our opinion this part of the revision requires rethinking and/or
Area E: Civilization and Thought
NOT intended as a reconceptualization. We note that the current
wording of Area E's "objective" focuses on history:
"To provide a perspective on civilization through the study
of human history and thought." (Even if "thought"
is not necessarily history, the word "civilization"
implies a historical approach.) We are not making the
historical perspective central to GE, it is already a
core area. It is regrettable that the proposed name seems to highlight
one department only, since we feel that ALL current area E courses
would qualify under the new name. In the discussion document we
asked about the Phil 20 and RelSt 80 series because: If, as we
propose, the "Western Civilization" category (Area E-1)
becomes a "Special Subject requirement," AND IF, as
we suggest, a new "Interdisciplinary" core area is created,
those departments (as well as Comp Lit) might consider whether
their surveys might be more appropriate for that new area. IF
no new "area I" is created, those surveys remain appropriate
where they are now, or they might consider whether their approach
would place them in "Literary and Textual Studies."
I repeat: the work group does NOT see this as "a significant
reconceptualization." Perhaps you would prefer the title
"Historical and Cultural Studies"? However, many cultural
studies courses would be more appropriate in Areas D, F or G,
so it would be somewhat misleading to use the term in Area E's
agree that students need some grounding in both content and methods
before they can truly understand a discipline. In the jargon of
GE might be called a "depth requirement." In our current
program, solely the Area E-1 specification that both required
courses come from the same sequence reflects this. However, in
practice, given the difficulty of creating continuity across courses
in one sequence taught by many different faculty members, this
objective is rarely realized even in E-1. We welcome suggestions
on how to realize this goal under the UCSB's tradition of substantial
faculty teaching autonomy and limited resources to devote to curriculum
the third and final point, the proposed definition was vetted
by more than a roomful of faculty to be broad enough to encompass
all of their approaches: "Disciplines whose knowledge
claims rely on the analysis of a broad range of sources about
past cultures with the aim of understanding those cultures in
themselves, as they have changed over time, and in their relationships
to other cultures." We welcome suggestions from faculty
who would like to teach in this area and feel the definition would
The workgroup document refers to a "renaming" of Area E from Civilization
and Thought to Historical Studies. This is not simply a renaming but
a significant reconceptualization of the requirement. "Civilization
and thought" is a much broader area, while "historical studies" strikes
us as too narrow and too specific to a particular discipline. What is
the rationale for making historical perspective and methodology central
to GE? Again, the committee should make this clear.
Another point we would like to make is that it is often difficult to
fully understand historical development without significant background
in the given area. This is true, for example, of the development of
language; students must have significant background in linguistics before
they can fully understand how languages change. We suspect that this
also might be the case for other disciplines. Thus historical studies
in many disciplines may not be general and basic enough to be appropriate
for GE. Are we then left with history courses being the primary courses
in this area?
Finally, we again consider the emphasis on methodology as opposed to
content to be inappropriate as well as unclear. It brings up the question
of what constitutes historical methodology. (We wonder whether there
would even be agreement on this question if we brought it up in a roomful
of historians.) If this revision to the GE program is put forward on
the final proposal (although we hope it will not be), the document should
provide a specific comment on expectations of what historical methodology
is, and how a given course will be evaluated with regards to this criterion.
- Areas F and G
reason for this suggestion is to create "space" in the
GE curriculum for new requirements, such as the interdisciplinary
and gender/sexuality courses (which, I note, you also favor).
Also, as noted, our requirements in the HFA area are much higher
even than comparison institutions that have a reputation for emphasizing
these areas (see table
on homepage). This has two undesireable consequences: it fosters
the tendency of students in the sciences to choose the BS degree
because their highly structured major requirements limit the number
of GE courses they can take. (See four MLPS departments' remarks
at the 2/14/03 meeting; link)
Data provided in the discussion document (link)
show that about 1/3 of our student body, arguably the students
who would benefit most from exposure to areas F and G (BS and
IGETC), are exempt from it.
In principle, however, you are correct: we faculty may wish to
uphold a higher standard for 4-year BA students, at the risk of
increasing the number of students who opt for other paths to completing
GE. This is a choice we should make explicitly, acknowledging
We would like to see a statement on the rationale of combining these
Also, part of the rationale given for reducing the number of requirements
here is equivalency with IGETC. However, it is not clear that such equivalency
is desirable or appropriate. The idea of reducing our requirements so
that they are the same as those required of transfer students from community
colleges seems a devaluing of our own idea of what a liberal arts education
represents. It does not seem problematic to us that students entirely
educated at UC have higher GE requirements than those coming in from
community colleges; it is a different educational experience and it
is natural that more rigorous requirements be part of it.
- Inter- and Multi-disciplinary Studies
percentages will indeed be difficult, but it is not really necessary
in practice. We feel we have addressed this issue: In the discussion
document we suggest including BOTH inter- and multi-disciplinary
courses, and we refer to a secondary document that discusses this
issue at length (disc. doc.;
The faculty likes this proposal, but thinks in practice it will be
difficult to determine what percentage of a course is in one field or
another. Some topics are so interdisciplinary that one can't pull the
content apart into clearly delimited areas and argue that one part is
A and the other is B. We recommend clarification of this issue.
- Ethnicity requirement
The faculty is strongly of the opinion that the inclusion of gender
issues into GE is appropriate, and that the time has come for this to
|We agree that
ethnicity does not seem to fit with gender and sexuality. However,
in practice (in actual courses) it is often included (are issues
of sexual orientation the same for African-American, Asian or white
males or females?). (You yourself ask whether the requirement shouldn't
specify "white" majority!) The use of the word "and"
in the introductory paragraph of the intersectionalities document
(link) may imply that such courses
must cover all 5 of the large topical areas mentioned in that sentence
(thus including the relationship to the heterosexual majority).
This can be easily remedied by replacing it with "or."
Also, the next sentence clearly implies that these courses would
not have to focus on relations to a heterosexual majority. Certainly
no one course would be expected to cover all aspects.
Some of your
faculty would prefer to include "European Americans and the
study of whiteness." My understanding is that the proponents
of this requirement do indeed wish not to include these groups,
because they are sufficiently covered in the vast majority of courses
that fulfill GE requirements. We need to ensure that students don't
miss the study of marginalized groups, not require them to study
what they are learning anyway.
Finally, such courses would certainly not have to focus on oppression.
Only the selection of groups to be studied would have to do with
However, we disapprove of combining the gender issues with ethnicity,
as these are independent domains. We would like to recommend that gender
and sexuality should be included as a separate GE, and that courses
satisfying this not be restricted to the US context. Much of the research
on gender and sexuality is comparative, crossing national boundaries,
and it seems fully appropriate for GE students to look at such issues
in this comparative light.
We particularly object to the revisions of the wording of this requirement
as proposed in the October 24th document entitled "Intersectionalities".
It appears from the wording that all classes in this GE would have to
focus on analyzing the experiences of the various historically oppressed
groups in terms of the heterosexual majority (not the white majority?).
It is not clear at all why a course on Native Americans, for example,
needs to include a comparison to heterosexuals, and to analyze queer
identities in relation to this group (as specified in the last sentence).
If all courses in this GE category must focus on issues of sexuality,
transgender and androgynous identities, then this requirement becomes
much too narrow. (For example, a course on African American Vernacular
English would have to be excluded from this category.)
Our recommendation is that we require that students take one ethnicity
course and one gender and sexuality course. We see this as preferable
to requiring students to take one course, and forcing all courses to
cover both areas.
It was pointed out at our meeting that Berkeley has a requirement entitled
"American Cultures", which some faculty members preferred as it does
not exclude European Americans and the study of whiteness and white
The faculty also objects to the current requirement that ethnicity
courses necessarily focus on oppression. A course highlighting the richness
of the cultural heritage of a given ethnic group may do as much (or
more) to raise cross-cultural understanding and appreciation as a course
that focuses on the oppression of the same group.
- Use of non-listed courses to satisfy GE requirements
the reality of an extraordinary range of majors, degrees, and
paths to graduation among the UCSB student body (even only L&S,
to which this GE applies), not to mention the range of ability
among students and the diversity of faculty teaching approaches
even within the same course, the GE workgroup feels that the goal
of a narrow "shared academic experience" is illusory
at this institution. The only practicable shared experience we
see is one that requires significant exposure to the broad range
of approaches and subjects offered by UCSB faculty. We feel that
the suggested GE curriculum would achieve this objective. See
also the conclusion to the Film Studies response (link--then
use your "back" button).
2. Many courses currently approved for GE are non-general. Many
of us, certainly all of the faculty who proposed and teach those
GE courses, reject the notion that only general/survey courses
can constitue GE.
3. We have heard substantial support among faculty and administrators
for a distribution-type GE system that would eliminate such problems.
We plan to explore this option in the future.
The faculty opposes this suggestion for several reasons. First, it
goes in principle against the concept of GE as representing a shared
academic experience. Second, the courses that would be substituted would
likely be insufficiently general to constitute "GE". Third, it would
require extensive administrative work (processing of petitions, etc.),
unless this option was limited to a small group of students (e.g. honors
The Linguistics faculty considers most of the proposed revisions of the
proposal to be problematic. We would like to see the inclusion of Area
I and also the addition of a requirement for one course in gender and
sexuality, possibly balanced by reductions elsewhere. If this is not feasible,
then we would advocate keeping the current GE program in place while taking
steps to significantly improve its implementation.