Positive Position on General Education Revision
[xx ], English
The ballot measure to revise the General Education requirements as proposed by the Senate Special Committee makes educational sense. The laudable desire for breadth of coverage in the current requirements has in a number of instances produced regimented fragmentation. The major change proposed is to eliminate most of the subdivisions of the current requirements, while (a) maintaining the same number of required courses within the broad areas and (b) continuing to have the requirements filled from a list of appropriate courses approved by the General Education Committee. For example, the Social Sciences area has four subdivisions. Students must now take one course each from three of these subdivisions and no course may be from the same department. The new proposal continues to require three courses but allows the student to choose the courses from any of the subdivisions. The apparent determination represented in the present requirements not to allow students to build up even minimal concentrations in any general education area is excessive. It is reasonable to believe that a student will learn as much about the social sciences by taking a sequence of two or three related courses as by being limited to a single course in any one department or category. Students who want to introduce elements of coherence into their undergraduate general education should be allowed to do so.
The proposal for revision has been reviewed and endorsed by three faculty committees--CEPAP, the General Education Committee, and the L&S Executive Committee. While it might not be the proposal any individual would devise, it represents a compromise that faculty of varying educational commitments and philosophies have found to be both acceptable and an improvement over the present requirements. It is relatively closely modelled on the present system, aimed only at eliminating some widely perceived defects. Its implementation ought thus to entail few disruptions.
That the proposal makes practical as well as educational sense should not be held against it. The present General Education list does not tell the whole story about the limitations of choice for students. The actual offerings of approved General Education courses during a given year are significantly more limited than the list of courses in the catalog. If an increasingly more limited number of courses is available after the VERIPS and budget cuts, the flexibility of the revised proposal will be even more important to the health of the Campus's General Education program. We need to be concerned about what kind of general education we can deliver, not only about what kind we have imagined. (Passage of the amendments proposed by Professor Drake and appearing on the mail ballot will eliminate many practical as well as educational benefits of the proposal.)
Of most importance is our duty to provide requirements and courses that enable our most dedicated students to make the best possible educational choices for their own intellectual development and goals. That is just as high a priority as forcing weaker students to take the courses we think of as appropriate medicine.
Statement Against the General Education Revision
[xx] , Chair, Comparative Literature
The present GE program passed in '85 was the result of six years of painstaking effort. It is currently being used as a model by other universities and was singled out for high praise by WACC accreditation (1990). Although there is obviously room for improvement, to rush with unseemly haste toward dismantling the program's core while keeping its outer shell is ill-conceived.
For instance, there is no definition of what kind of courses can be used to fulfill GE requirements (=req's); the breadth req. is all but gone; all science courses are in Area C, entailing that students will be able to fulfill the science req. without ever having to take a science course; a sociology student will never have to take a social science course in a discipline outside his/her major; all lit. courses in Area G may be taken in English only; high school students are to be admitted with a C instead of a B; dual reporting of grades is proposed for students fulfilling their writing req. In some cases, students will be able to use as many as eight courses in their major to satisfy the 13 required courses in Areas C-F.
At a time when it ought to be UCSB's goal to prepare students for a global market and a multicultural society, it would be especially bad in the public eye for this institution to appear to be weakening its GE program, while other universities in the country are toughening theirs. Nothing would be worse than ending up with a smorgasbord of courses without clear grounding in principle. It is an invitation to chaos! In any case, how can lowering our present standards preserve the integrity of the program? Better to put up with the existing program with all its flaws for awhile than to rush forward with a program even more flawed just for the sake of change and dissatisfaction in some quarters.
What needs to be done is this: table these proposals; involve a broader cross-section of the faculty in a well-thought-out revision of principles and objectives for our GE program, something that has not been done so far. Vote against this proposal!