LC group rethinks GenEd

Illustration by Cyan Cowap

By Gelsey Plaza /// Staff Writer

For the past several years, the Lewis & Clark Curriculum Committee has been working on several plans to try to implement changes to the general education (GenEd) requirements.  However, the changes were never carried out.  At LC, GenEd currently includes Exploration and Discovery (E&D) and the distribution requirements, which are foreign language, creative arts, scientific and quantitative reasoning, international studies and physical education.  The LC Curriculum Committee is currently taking measures to start reforming the GenEd curriculum.

The GenEd classes at LC are what the school thinks every student should gain experience in before graduation.  The school hopes that they will enhance the skills applicable for students to become leaders and make a difference in the world.  The GenEd classes are also supposed to be an opportunity for everyone to study fields outside their major. In recent years, however, a trend has been rising to move away from distribution requirements and toward something more integrated that would highlight the connections between various disciplines.

Many ideas have come up to try to modify the GenEd system.  One such idea is intersectionality.  Curriculum committee member Peter Drake says that more and more students want to be taught how to discuss controversial issues, such as those around gender, race and class, for it is important to understand the intersection of different groups.  Another suggestion is to incorporate service into GenEd—from serving the Portland community to serving the world.

Rebecca Yant ’19, who attended one of the GenEd discussions, thinks that making something required, such as the GE classes, could take the fun and interest out of education.

“Often times, students might want to take certain classes on their own,” Yant said. “However, making them required sort of breeds resentment.”

Due to the constantly changing demographics at LC, the school must make sure that its GenEd model is optimal for the community.  LC must also maintain a certain status of accreditation so the community will recognize the school’s potential.  To initiate the process on GenEd reform, the Curriculum committee has created a smaller subcommittee to discuss a proposal.

This newly formed ad hoc subcommittee had their first meeting on Feb. 16.  The subcommittee members include faculty Peter Drake, Greta Binford, Karen Gross and Jim Proctor, Student Academic Affairs Board (SAAB) representatives Aaron Fellows ’16 and Hannah Swernoff ’16, and Registrar Judy Finch.  The committee’s goal is to facilitate an inclusive environment in order to gather numerous voices with regards to the GenEd reform process.  They want to hear about student experiences and what students and the community hope to gain from GenEd.

Swernoff hopes for GenEd to create a sense of community on campus.

“I think that [GenEd] should be changed to create community and inclusion on campus by directly engaging with race, racism, and oppression in academia and the world,” Swernoff said. “Faculty and students agree that GenEd should be reformed to meet the needs and character of LC. I would like GenEd to change to reflect the engaged and critical nature of LC students so that we can be prepared to change the [expletive removed] world.”

As of right now, the subcommittee is seeking input to start brainstorming the goals that they want GenEd to achieve.  They are considering the vision for how GenEd should empower students,  the value that GenEd should have, LC’s current identity, and how this identity will change in future years.

Binford emphasizes that the whole community must be involved in the conversation on GenEd—staff, faculty, students and parents.

“There is a lot of energy around general education, and the committee wants to harvest people’s energy and insights to create a shared vision,” Binford said. “We are optimistic that this process will lead to a broadly supported general education plan that achieves our collective goals while uniting, inspiring and empowering our community.”

The GenEd committee is very open to hearing everyone’s ideas and thoughts.  It wants to help students’ voices be heard.  As previously mentioned, its main goal is to create a shared vision.  The committee invites everyone to join their weekly meetings on Tuesday evenings from 5-6 at Maggie’s.

Drake hopes that the GenEd reforms will bring a new wave of interest and enthusiasm for learning.

“We’re hoping to devise something that students will find engaging and exciting and useful and not merely another set of boxes to be checked off,” Drake said.

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