ERIC Number: EJ777726
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2007-Sep-7
A Core Curriculum for Tomorrow's Citizens
Lewis, Harry R.
Chronicle of Higher Education, v54 n2 pB20 Sep 2007
Should the 21st-century university have a core curriculum? The report of the Secretary of Education's Commission on the Future of Higher Education said nothing about general education, the learning that educated Americans should share. Instead the Spellings commission report highlighted broad access and measurable "value added" as the major challenges facing higher education. Limiting educational "leadership" to such criteria loses sight of colleges' larger purpose: to produce an enlightened, self-reliant citizenry, pluralistic and diverse, but united by democratic values. It is fashionable in university circles to say that a core curriculum is unnecessary--impossible, in fact. The contention is that students just do not have that much in common--nothing is "relevant" to all of them. Others claim that a core curriculum is impossible because the explosion of knowledge over the past half-century has splintered the faculty into a hundred special-interest groups. Experts in diverse fields can barely communicate with each other and can not agree on what students should know, other than skills such as speaking, writing, and quantitative reasoning. Those things are important, as the commission report recognized. A college education is more than a set of assessable skills and measurable outcomes. In this article, the author argues that basic civics should be part of it. Honoring the responsibilities of citizenship in a democracy is part of the moral obligation universities assume in exchange for the vast freedoms, and tax exemptions, they enjoy. Students need to develop a feeling for the preciousness of human freedom and self-determination, and the responsibility of citizens to act for the good of their country and not only in their personal self-interest. In college, they should learn how America's foundational ideas, of liberty and equality under the law, apply to the difficult problems with which it is struggling today. They need to learn that as citizens they have no one but themselves to blame for their elected officials and their actions. A thoughtful 21st-century curriculum can and should renew higher education's moral compact with America.
Descriptors: Higher Education, Core Curriculum, Citizenship, Democracy, Democratic Values, General Education, College Students
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Opinion Papers
Education Level: Higher Education
Authoring Institution: N/A