College faculty approve first revision
of education requirements in 20 years

Emory College faculty have approved a revision of the general education requirements for the first time in nearly 20 years, but now the real work begins: the development and implementation of changes that will increase Emory students' awareness of global culture and history, further develop their analytical and writing skills, and offer them more individualized learning opportunities.

Emory College Dean David Bright said that the direction in which Emory is heading is "not unlike what other colleges are doing in the area of liberal education, including an increased awareness of an international context and understanding of foreign languages, placing an increased emphasis on writing courses, and providing greater access to regular faculty during the freshman year."

"What we'll be working on next is placing this within a framework that is distinctly Emory," he added.

Bright, who has shepherded the process for the past four years, has appointed George Jones, Goodrich C. White Professor of Biology and former dean of the Graduate School, to lead a small task force in creating what Bright refers to as a "road map" for the faculty to follow in implementing the revisions that they approved in meetings on Jan. 22 and 29.

Bright said that the revision of the College's general education requirements led to much debate and discussion regarding the definition of an educated person.

"Education is not content free-there are kinds of information and awareness that students need to have-but they also need to develop the skills that will enable them to learn, not only while in college, but for the rest of their lives. College is just the beginning of the educational process, not the end of it," said Bright.

As an example of the revised curriculum's focus, students learn how to apply analytical skills to the interpretation of a text. "They learn what it means to sit down with a text, to analyze it, and to articulate what they have found," said Bright. "In this situation, the content can vary widely. Students need to acquire a habit of learning, and the tools with which to learn effectively and to use that knowledge. The perceptive reading of texts is one part of that habit."

The curriculum revision process formally began with the 1994 Task Force on Curriculum, chaired by German Studies Associate Professor Garland Richmond, which recommended that the revision of general education requirements be designed to integrate the acquisition of analytical skills with building a knowledge base. After years of meetings and task forces, committees and subcommittees, the faculty approved revised general education requirements for three kinds of courses: Not everyone, of course, agrees with the direction of the revised requirements. Mathematics and Computer Science Department Chair Dwight Duffus believes that an extensive set of uniform requirements can be a "roadblock," particularly for science students who plan to attend graduate school. "I don't think you enhance undergraduate education by having a universally applied set of general education requirements," said Duffus, who also thinks that programs such as the advising system need to be "fixed in conjunction with revision of the curriculum." Duffus also said he is pleased that George Jones will lead the effort to develop and implement the new curriculum format.

French and Italian professor Carol Herron, who is vice chair of the faculty and chair of the executive committee, said she is pleased that "Emory is moving forward with increased focus on international studies, foreign languages and the arts in the curriculum, while also emphasizing smaller classes. We've built a solid foundation of uniform requirements upon which we are updating and broadening the range of what we offer," she said.

-Nancy Seideman

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