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ERIC Number: ED498950
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2006-Jan
Pages: 3
Abstractor: ERIC
Blue about the Crimson Plan for General Education. Carnegie Perspectives
Ehrlich, Tom
Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching
The committee charged with reforming the current Core Curriculum of Harvard University has instead recommended a minimum distribution requirement for undergraduates: three courses in each of three fields. The Core Curriculum was adopted by Harvard in the 1970s with a view to ensuring that undergraduates be broadly educated in seven approaches to knowledge: (1) Foreign Cultures; (2) Historical Study; (3) Literature and Arts; (4) Moral Reasoning; (5) Quantitative Reasoning; (6) Science; and (7) Social Analysis. Guidelines and faculty review committees were established to make certain that courses in these areas met the aims of the Core Curriculum. The goal was to ensure that students gained a general education. Over time, the numbers of courses that qualified kept expanding and the guidelines were increasingly ignored. No general education program is perfect, and no doubt the one at Harvard had weathered and aged. It should be replaced, advocates the writer, with a strong curriculum that is shaped by a vision of the knowledge, the skills, and the habits of mind that students need to go on learning and to be engaged and responsible leaders. If the form of the Core Curriculum, and if its form no longer serves the intended function, it is the form that should be changed and not the function. Citing other research universities that have turned to revitalizing general education, Ehrlich is troubled that the proposed change at Harvard appears to ignore the need for students to be exposed to different pedagogies, particularly ones involving active learning, such as community service learning, project-based learning, and undergraduate research. Students learn and remember more and are better able to put their learning to use when they participate fully in their learning. The reality of the new plan, writes Ehrlich, it that it appears to serve the faculty rather than the students, ensuring that faculty teach only what they want to teach, leaving it up to the students to make whatever connections they can among their courses. Noting a set of student essays appended to the proposals, the writer is intrigued that several urge a common academic experience for undergraduates with a set of core requirements that provide some coherence and cohesion, in striking contrast to the conclusions of the committee. Harvard undergraduates will always do well because Harvard takes only the pick of the litter. The writer laments that his alma mater does not do more for such able students to further their general education.
Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. 51 Vista Lane, Stanford, CA 94305. Tel: 650-566-5102; Fax: 650-326-0278; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Opinion Papers
Education Level: Higher Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, Menlo Park, CA.
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A