Archive for Sunday, September 30, 2012

Some schools may keep Western Civ requirement

September 30, 2012


Undergraduates seeking Bachelor of Arts degrees from Kansas University’s largest school likely no longer will be required to take the two Western Civilization courses.

But three other KU schools outside of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences also require those two semesters of reading-heavy introduction to the Western world’s great thinkers for at least some undergraduates. As they wait for KU’s first-ever universitywide curriculum to be fully designed and put into place in fall 2013, their responses to the news about Western Civilization range from strong support for the course to a wait-and-see approach.

The Schools of Journalism and Social Welfare, along with the architecture department in the School of Architecture, Design and Planning, are the others with Western Civilization requirements.

And of those three, the architecture faculty have taken the strongest stance since the report earlier this month that the CLAS requirement likely would be dropped.

In a meeting earlier this month, architecture faculty members unanimously approved a resolution saying they were committed to keeping the Western Civilization requirement for students in the Master of Architecture program.

That five-year track is the main one for undergraduates in the department, architecture professor Stephen Grabow said, and it enrolls about 100 new freshmen each year.

The department requires only 45 hours of general-education requirements for those students, Grabow said, compared with 72 for CLAS students. But, he said, faculty feel six of those 45 hours should be Western Civilization because it gives students an introduction to a variety of subject areas including history, economics, politics, art and science.

“It’s one of the few totally interdisciplinary courses,” Grabow said.

He said the faculty spoke out to show support for the program, which they feared might be in danger if it’s no longer required and enrollment decreases.

Officials said earlier this month the courses would not be cut, and they likely still would be among a group of options that students can use to fill requirements in the new curriculum.

Grabow said it benefited architecture students, even though they’re part of a specialized professional program, to get a firm grounding in liberal arts because their future employers and clients would expect them to be intelligent, well-rounded people. The Western Civilization courses, while difficult, provide that grounding, he said.

“We just felt that we needed to make a statement about how valuable we think it is,” Grabow said.

The School of Journalism has not yet made a decision about whether to keep its Western Civilization requirement, Dean Ann Brill said. The requirement applies to all its undergraduate students, who number 762 in fall 2012 compared with more than 12,000 in CLAS.

The school’s curriculum committee this year will be considering which general-education requirements to include along with the new KU core requirements that will affect all undergraduates starting next fall, Brill said.

“It’s one of the classes we could require for our students, or we could require something else,” Brill said, “but we haven’t gotten to that point yet.”

She said the school would consider whether other courses could give students a similar background, or whether requiring fewer hours of general-education courses might allow students the flexibility to, say, spend a semester studying in England.

“That might be a richer experience in some ways than the Western Civ class,” Brill said.

The number of hours of general-education requirements for most KU undergraduates, 72, is out of line with most other universities, Brill said. The journalism school requires undergraduates to add a minor or double-major, and fewer general requirements also would provide more flexibility for that, she said.

The School of Social Welfare, which enrolled 159 undergraduates this fall, requires Western Civilization for its Bachelor of Social Work program.

Professor Alice Lieberman, the director of the BSW program, said the faculty would not be able to make a decision until it was clear what the new KU core requirements would be.

But she said that even though she represents a professional school rather than a liberal arts one, she appreciates the Western Civilization courses.

“The apparent loss of the Western Civ sequence as a critical part of a liberal arts education is very unfortunate,” Lieberman said.


james bush 5 years, 3 months ago

Does Eastern Civilization continue or is there such curriculum. Conspiracy theory: the communists have won the day at KU's liberal-controlled curricula!?

kuguardgrl13 5 years, 3 months ago

Most majors require that you take "nonwestern" classes. Generally anthropology or eastern religion.

james bush 5 years, 3 months ago

Will this mean Angela Davis won't be invited back to the women's studies department?

Carol Bowen 5 years, 3 months ago

The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences will not require Western Civ? That sure sounds counterproductive. I'd like to hear more about their criteria for the General Education requirements. KU does have a tendency to require too many courses. Maybe courses that are not such a benchmark should be deleted. Eastern thought is becoming more crucial. That should be a requirement.

KU should definitely not turn itself into a vocational school. That role is best developed in vocational programs elsewhere. Vocational education is a totally different concept. A university is all about thinking. If students do not like books, then they should look for career choices elsewhere. We have an inflated number of college graduates, too many for the field they chose. We can't hire them all.

kuguardgrl13 5 years, 3 months ago

Most majors require students to choose from a list of "non-western" classes. My thought is the same will be for western but Western Civ will still be an option as well as maybe history or potentially art history or music history. I feel it might be better if instead of both semesters of Western Civ, they allow students to choose between the first and the second. Some may want to study the ancients and renaissance while others prefer the Enlightenment through modern times. I also wonder if certain majors within Liberal Arts will still require Western Civ. It makes sense for History, English, Poli Sci, and the like but not so much for the sciences. They are the ones asking for more flexibility and undergrad research opportunities.

Carol Bowen 5 years, 3 months ago

I disagree that the sciences do not need a humanities component.

  1. Their degree would be a votech degree.
  2. The liberal arts courses improve their problem solving abilities and creativity.
  3. Given the opportunities overseas, science professionals need to understand other countries and cultures.

MIT changed their program years ago to reflect this list. Think about Einstein. He was a lover of music, art, and philosophy. Most mathematicians are very interested in economics, philosophy, religion, languages and liberal arts. Or, would you rather have an engineer solve a problem on one block, and create a disaster all around it?

jhawkinsf 5 years, 3 months ago

Western Civ. still stands out in my mind as one of the better classes I ever took. Thank you, Prof. Seaver.

Clovis Sangrail 5 years, 3 months ago

Seaver's lectures were excellent.

But the grad student leading the discusion section was an idiot. I was about 10 years older than he was and significantly better read.

blindrabbit 5 years, 3 months ago

Dropping Western Civ. from the CLAS Bachelor of Arts Program is a copt-out to attracting mediocre students as opposed to maintaining a strong liberal arts program. KU CLAS is trying to compete with a shrinking college pool of students and trying to attract the community college crowd. If KU is serious about trying to reverse the trend of continuing it's slide in standing among in national public universties, this decision must be veiwed with skepticism. The meaning of "liberal arts" should include diverse thinking and not a slide to taylor made courses designed to fill the job market and to satisfy inward thinking.

George_Braziller 5 years, 3 months ago

Western Civ was good in theory at one time but it never evolved. It was very Euro-centric.

Writings or history south of the equator or east of Europe didn't seem to exist even though they had huge impacts on Western Civilization as it was taught.

It was bored TAs reading from a boring teaching manual to bored students so we could take a boring test and get the hell out of there.

LRT 5 years, 3 months ago

Western Civ wasn't terribly useful for my course of study (BS Chem) and was, for the most part, an afterthought when stacked up against coursework in my major. I would have gladly welcomed such a change. Just another Gen Ed GPA booster on my transcript.

Abdu Omar 5 years, 3 months ago

I took Western Civ at the University by the prof that wrote the text book. My my what a class, he read from it everyday of class which was 4 days a week in a stuffy old building, so I haven't a good impression of Western Civ. I learned through life study that the Middle East and Central and Eastern Asia had a great influence upon the Western Mindset. So why not enjoy a class or two in Eastern Civ or something like that along with some Western Classes?

Carol Bowen 5 years, 3 months ago

I have two degrees in the sciences. I had a very difficult time in Western Civ I and II and struggled to complete the courses. History was not much fun, either. Years later, I found that I understood the concepts at a much more mature level. The experience definitely improved my thinking abilities and success in my field, not to mention an appreciation of the world we live in and the ability to approach new cultural information with an open mind. That's part of a college education.

I do agree that requiring a semester of Western Civ and a semester of eastern thought would be a beneficial update to the general education requirements for all degree programs. There has to be some other fluff that could be removed. (Mathematics is not fluff.)

kuguardgrl13 5 years, 3 months ago

The large amount of "humanities" could definitely be looked at. That in and of itself is three classes.

Donna Kirk-Swaffar 5 years, 3 months ago

Mixed feelings. I hated my first semester of WC, but that was due in large part to the pompous TA who taught the discussion group. As a freshman eligible for the honors program (in which I decided not to partake), I was kind of railroaded into WC at orientation. The class would have meant more with a couple of years of literature and history classes under my belt. As a first-year, I struggled with the reading amounts and content (despite taking an AP-level humanities class my senior year of high school). Keep the requirement, but leave it in the junior/senior or graduate level programs.

kuguardgrl13 5 years, 3 months ago

That's probably the reason why only honors students are allowed to take it as freshmen. The rest are not allowed to until sophomore year. Taking the first semester over the summer at the end of my junior year was a pain in the butt, honestly. Curse of changing my major.

Rex Hargis 5 years, 3 months ago

I thought WC was easy--too easy. Read a book, parrot it back. That being said, it was worth taking if only because it made my peers actually read. This was in '75. The reading thing is even worse, now.

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