Trustees approve bold new gen-ed program
It reforms the core curriculum in content and organization
On Tuesday afternoon, Dec. 14, 2004, the Board of Trustees unanimously approved a new program of general education for all Temple bachelor’s degree candidates, a move that will transform the undergraduate educational experience at the University.
The new program of general education — or “gen-ed” — will replace Temple’s core curriculum, which was approved in 1986 and revised in the ’90s, in the fall semester of 2007.
The reforms approved on Tuesday are profound and broad, affecting everything from the nature of gen-ed class offerings to the oversight of the program. (For the complete text of the approved proposal, see www.temple.edu/president).
“Every Temple undergraduate should have an opportunity to learn certain basic skills and paradigms — knowledge that cannot be acquired in introductory classes offered by any individual department,” President David Adamany said. “The new program of general education created jointly by the faculty and the administration will provide this invaluable intellectual backbone. It will also provide Temple students with a common learning experience that will allow them to share ideas outside the classroom and that will raise the quality of intellectual life throughout the University community.”
Starting in fall 2007, students will be required to take 11 special gen-ed courses in the following eight categories: analytical reading and writing (four credits), great thinkers (two courses for six credits), quantitative literacy (four credits), science or technology (two courses for six credits), the arts (four credits), human behavior (three credits), the structures and conduct of society (one three-credit course on American society and one focusing on other nations) and race and diversity in the United States (three credits).
Some of the most significant changes to the curriculum include:
• a reduction in the total number of required credits to 36, creating more flexibility to fulfill major requirements and pursue electives (the average student now takes 39 to 52 credits to fulfill current core requirements);
• a requirement that all students who enter as freshmen complete gen-ed coursework before earning 62 credits — in most cases, while they’re underclassmen;
• a streamlining of the menu of gen-ed courses offered (usually five in each category, and a maximum of eight) so that students will be more likely to have common intellectual experiences;
• an emphasis on having tenured or tenure-track faculty members teach gen-ed courses, with as few exceptions as possible.
In addition, the approved proposal calls for radical changes in the ways the program will be governed.
“Rigorous monitoring and accountability will be essential for the success of the general education program,” Provost Ira Schwartz said. “The current core curriculum is poorly defined, and the proliferation of core courses has reduced coherence in each core area. Some current core courses count toward major requirements, and others meet the requirements of more than one core area. It’s just too easy to manipulate the rules.”
To safeguard the integrity of the program, Temple will create a General Education Executive Committee made up of faculty members, students and a presiding officer appointed by the Provost. The Provost will also appoint a director of the gen-ed program and a faculty coordinator for each of the eight gen-ed categories after consulting with the executive committee and the Faculty Senate.
Although the Senate’s quest to reform the core curriculum began more than three years ago, the program approved by the Board on Tuesday came together quickly over the past few months. After a gen-ed proposal by the Faculty Senate’s General Education Task Force was narrowly defeated in the Senate on May 4, the administration introduced its own proposal in October. The Faculty Senate quickly responded with another proposal — largely derived from their original May proposal — and the Senate approved it on Nov. 23.
The program approved by the Board of Trustees on Tuesday emerged from discussions in recent weeks between President Adamany, Provost Schwartz and Faculty Senate president Daniel T. O’Hara, representing the Faculty Senate Steering Committee. It combines aspects of the Senate’s proposal and the administration’s.
“The administration’s proposal and the Faculty Senate’s proposal of Nov. 23 had a great many similarities and only a few differences. We agreed to disagree on the few features that weren’t shared,” Schwartz said. “Our discussions with the faculty set a good precedent.”
O’Hara, who took office in September after serving on the General Education Task Force under former Senate president William Nathan, shares Schwartz’s optimism about the future.
“By working together in a spirit of cooperation, we have come forward with a program that will address the needs of Temple students,” O’Hara said. “Now comes the difficult task of implementation. And with this example in our minds, the faculty and the administration can continue to work together to address other ways to improve education at Temple.”
- By Hillel J. Hoffmann