From a Junior at Vanderbilt

I ran across this article the other day from a student perspective. Granted, he is an engineering student at Vanderbilt, but I thought he had some interesting thoughts about core liberal arts curricula. Read his opinion piece from the Vanderbilt student paper here.

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2 Responses to From a Junior at Vanderbilt

  1. This student is largely parroting the discussion of liberal education that followed a paper last spring – The Chronicle covers it here: http://chronicle.com/article/Number-of-Institutions-That/47186/

    I agree, in part, that there is a problem here. But the problem has been co-opted by followers of educational thinkers like Bloom and Strauss to lament the decline of Western Civilization. We need to bracket their whinging from the legitimate point at the core of this argument.

    This author hasn’t really understood that context, or the history of the liberal arts. For example his comment:

    “Then there’s the math requirement. Philosophy is not math. It might contain math, but all students should face calculus at some point in their college career.”

    is dangerously ignorant. Logic instruction predates instruction in calculus in the liberal tradition by, oh, say, 2300 years. And if you think that’s an exaggeration, notice that ‘Logic’ is one of the Trivium and Calculus instruction only appears in the 1950s and 1960s.

    The point stands, however, that contemporary liberal arts curriculum allows students to largely avoid serious reading – and that’s a shame. Perhaps it is time to reconsider a unified ‘core’ like ‘Great Works,’ or a ‘preceptorial with reading list’ program (like St. Johns) during the 1st year?

  2. gretchenmckay says:

    I’ve been doing some reading of late about student reading….e-books, text books, how they engage in information. It’s a bit disconcerting, really. How closely engaged are they to words, texts, ideas? I worry about that to an extent with the Reacting games. I know some of them read texts closely to be ready with arguments for their “person.” I see it again and again — even with students that I note are going to struggle. They’re doing it. But do they then do it in other courses where there is no Reacting pedagogy employed? I’m not so optimistic on that last…

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