Multiple new general education models proposed, debated

Illustration by Sarah Bradbury

By Ariel McGee

Recent talk of updating the general education requirements at Lewis & Clark, has led to the formation of multiple models being proposed by faculty. These proposals would update the core class requirement and the distribution of classes that all undergraduate LC students are required to take. The General Education Super Team (GEST), a subcommittee of the Curriculum Committee, has been meeting monthly in order to speed up this process.

Associate Professor of Music Katherine FitzGibbon is the Chair of GEST.

“We will vote on a successful general education model by the end of the 2017-18 academic year,” FitzGibbon said. “LC will use the 2018-19 academic year to come up with an implementation plan that will go into effect during the 2019-20 academic year.”

Last year the LC faculty voted to maintain the distribution and core model (DISCO), the same structure as the current model. This year the faculty and GEST committee want to focus on specifications within the DISCO model. The DISCO model will include requirements that pertain to both class distribution and the required core class.

“There is value in having a common first-year experience that all students have and we wish to have a core class that better reflects the goals that we have for our students,” FitzGibbon said. “Ideally, LC can come up with a core class that is distinctive and will attract prospective students.”

A large part of the LC identity statement, written by faculty last year, is to maintain a strong emphasis on cultural and international awareness. The general education reform is meant to reflect diversity and exposure to different cultures and ideas.

“This is my tenth year working at LC, and for the entire time we have been discussing general education,” FitzGibbon said. “The broader goal of the work we have been doing over the last two years has been to make sure that the requirements we ask of all students really reflect our goals, identity and priorities as an institution. There are aspects of our current curriculum that perhaps do not help us reach those goals.”

Associate Professor and Department Chair Todd Lochner is a member of GEST and has been very active in the general education reform process. He has proposed his own DISCO model.

“Last semester GEST sent out a call (to faculty) saying if you want to propose a plan, bring it,” Lochner said. “(Faculty) could propose a comprehensive plan or you could make an argument for one core class (in replacement of E&D) that you could stick within other models.”

The comprehensive plans and core class models were then be sent to the Curriculum Committee, the parent committee of GEST that oversees the entirety of curriculum at LC, to be proofread and finalized. All of the models and core class proposals have been finalized and are in the process of being presented to the faculty as a whole.

There are currently seven proposed core class models and six complete DISCO models, each of which has a core class proposition and a complete set of distribution requirements. Most of the core classes proposed either focus on quantitative reasoning or writing skills.

“Numbers core could streamline the science and math distribution requirements,” FitzGibbon said.

GEST recently invited Hanna Exler ’18 to be a student member of their committee in an attempt to involve the student body in the general education discussion.

“I’m excited for a more interesting core class,” Exler said. “If we do a numbers core, students who aren’t math or science majors don’t have to worry about hitting the SQR requirements, but at the same time I think learning how to write and research is really important.”

Every proposed model includes physical education, world language, creative arts/humanities, lab science and international affairs requirements. Some models allow one class to be used for multiple requirements. Each model has a strong emphasis on the international aspect of the liberal arts experience.

After the models have been narrowed down to the finalists, GEST will send out a survey to the students asking for their opinions on each model. In addition, there will be forums held to discuss these models.

“I love the idea of students doing surveys, and if they do them it will work really well,” Exler said. “I was thinking about maybe having each department head send out surveys individually because when I get an email from a department head I always read it.”

Exlers input will become increasingly important as the general educations models are narrowed down, as will the input of the student body.

“We really value student input in this process,” FitzGibbon said. “The curriculum is ultimately a faculty vote, but the faculty really values the student experience and we’re here to make sure that students are growing in all of the ways we think a liberal arts education should allow them to grow.”

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