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Rob’s post about his friend Harry got me thinking about the core curriculum. It seems to me you should not be able to graduate from a four-year college without fulfilling the following distribution requirements. They’re the bare minimum required to participate fully and usefully in American democracy, understand our culture, understand other cultures, and view the world from the perspective of an educated person. Anyone disagree?
Ancient, medieval and modern history: One term each. (When once I proposed to my father at the age of 16 that I wished to drop out of school and follow the Grateful Dead on tour, he stopped me cold with the question: “Who came first, Thomas Aquinas or Thomas Becket?” I couldn’t answer. Actually, I tried to bluff, but I guessed wrong. No one should graduate without a sufficiently deep understanding of the history of the West to be able to take a reasonable guess.)
American history, one term.
History of political thought, one term. I’m perfectly happy to replace every political science class on the books with history classes. And it’s not a science, by the way.
English literature from Chaucer to the present: Two terms. No need at all for “creative writing” courses, or any kind of writing course; students should be writing term papers in all of their classes. Above all, if they’re to learn to write, they need to learn how to read. No one should graduate without being able to recognize any obvious reference to Shakespeare.
Three years of a foreign language, including a survey class of that language’s literature. Yes, three. It takes that long to acquire any useful command of a foreign language. And I think a term abroad–or even a year–should be mandatory. If you choose the right language, it won’t be a financial hardship.
Formal logic, predicate and propositional, one term. Too many people just cannot think straight; this is the corrective.
Mathematics through a full year of calculus.
One term of physics, one of chemistry, one of biology.
One term of economics, macro and micro.
A survey course in philosophy.
A survey course in religion. And you better be able to explain to me the difference between Shi’ites and Sunnis when you’re done. No one should graduate without being able to recognize any obvious reference to the Old and New Testaments.
A survey course in the history of art or music, preferably both.
I’m thinking that in the year 2010, a class in computer science is probably mandatory, too.
What do you think?