Thursday, August 27, 2009
Fish, Stanley. "What Should Colleges Teach?" THINK AGAIN BLOG. NEW YORK TIMES August 27, 2009.
The arguments pro and con are familiar. On one side the assertion that a core curriculum provides students with the distilled wisdom of the western tradition and prepares them for life. On the other side the assertion that a core curriculum packages and sells the prejudices and biases of the reigning elite and so congeals knowledge rather than advancing it. Have we lost our way or finally found it? Thirty-five years ago there was no such thing as a gay and lesbian studies program; now you can build a major around it. For some this development is a sign that a brave new world has arrived; for others it marks the beginning of the end of civilization. It probably is neither; curricular alternatives are just not that world-shaking. The philosophical baggage that burdens this debate should be jettisoned and replaced with a more prosaic question: What can a core curriculum do that the proliferation of options and choices (two words excoriated in the ACTA report) cannot? The answer to that question is given early in the report before it moves on to its more polemical pages. An “important benefit of a coherent core curriculum is its ability to foster a ‘common conversation’ among students, connecting them more closely with faculty and with each other.” The nice thing about this benefit is that it can be had no matter what the content of the core curriculum is. It could be the classics of western literature and philosophy. It could be science fiction. It could be globalization. It could be anything so long as every student took it. But whatever it is, please let it include a writing course that teaches writing and not everything under the sun. That should be the real core of any curriculum. . . . Read the rest here: http://fish.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/08/24/what-should-colleges-teach/.