General Education Requirements Under Review

booksImage by Ryan Davis '17, Art Director For more than a decade, Skidmore College has had the same general education requirements. The current curriculum encourages students to explore concepts in the fields of the arts, the humanities, the sciences, and the social sciences. Recently, President Glotzbach has mentioned that the faculty are reviewing these course requirements with one goal in mind: to prepare Skidmore students with a solid education. In a statement released in December 2009 entitled Skidmore College Goals for Student Learning and Development, the faculty stated, “We want our students to acquire both knowledge and capacities that enable them to initiate and embrace change and apply their learning lifelong in new contexts.” However, what constitutes a foundational and supposedly relevant education is under debate. Professors, students, administrative advisors, and members of the Committee of Educational Policy and Planning (CEPP) have been meeting regularly to design a general curriculum that accomplishes the goal of providing a simultaneously timeless and era-aware education.

When asked about the progress of these discussions, Glotzbach explained that they were still preliminary. He said, “they’re trying to take a comprehensive look at the requirements to see how they map onto what the faculty think students need to learn today. There are more conversations to come; they’re at the thoughtful investigative stage of examining possible alternatives to see what we might do.”

Professor John Brueggemann, chair of the sociology department, was a member of CEPP in the past. Brueggemann elaborated on the complexity of the decisions to be made. He stated, “The faculty are divided among the arts, the humanities, the natural sciences, and the social sciences. If you go to a lecture in Gannett, there will be some issue - it could be sustainability, it could be scientific literacy, it could be non-Western interaction, cultural interaction, global interaction, it could be diversity. People will say, “how do we get students and faculty more sensitized to this issue?” And someone will say, “we should have a requirement.” Each one of their goals is honorable, but if we add all of the proposed requirements, it would end up being too much. If all the faculty got what they wanted, the students would have no time for electives.

Full time students who attend Skidmore College for all four years have a maximum of 144 possible credits they can take during their undergraduate experience, not counting possible credit overloads. Although 144 credits may seem like a lot, the very fact that there is a limitation implies that compromises must be made.

“Professor Michael Ennis-McMillan, chair of the anthropology department, offered his insight about the delicate nature of the decisions to be made by CEPP. Ennis-McMillan replied saying, “I think it’s good to have some requirements as a guideline to say here’s what a liberally educated person should have. But if you go too far and require everything, you’re not letting exploration and creativity flourish. We’re trying to figure out a happy balance of six to eight core courses.”

Some professors have declined to speak on the issue, because nothing is set in stone yet. However, the gears of change have started to turn and updates are to come.

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