Notes on Old Main Humanities Discussion of the Curriculum - Oct. 30, 2003

David Itzkowitz and Jim Laine convened a meeting of Old Main faculty on October 30 to discuss possible changes to the Macalester college curriculum. Twelve faculty attended, with representatives from History, English, Clasics, Religious Studies and Philosophy.

We began by considering four models of the college wide curriculum:

Although the current model for Macalester was the distribution, there were few supporters for it. One faculty supported the core curriculum, but admitted that it would be impossible to institute. In general, there was some skepticism about how effective requirements are in producing the sort of educated person we expect Mac grads to be. There was some support for more outcome based requirements (we note that foreign language and diversity requiremnets now fit this definition), but virtually everyone sfelt that any over all increase in the number of requirements would be a bad idea. In the end there was fair support for the laissez faire Grinnell model. There was some fear that by instituting “outcomes” met by particular courses, there would be a sort of departmental arms race as depts sought to have their courses meet the outcomes.

Is there a difference in expecting an outcome, and requiring a certain level of proficiencey in a particular area?

Should we provide certain “experiences” rather than set up requirements? (for example, ensure that all students have an ‘urban experience’ that involves learning in an urban field setting, or insure that every student has the experience of making art?

When asked what one change they would like to see, we heard the following suggestions: