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Liberal-arts education isn't going away at KU, CLAS dean says


I met Tuesday with KU's dean of liberal arts and sciences, Danny Anderson, to learn more about where the College of Liberal Arts of Sciences will be going in 2013 and where it stands on revamping its curriculum for next fall.

You can expect to read more on both of those subjects soon, but I thought I'd share one piece of the conversation now that might be of interest to a lot of folks.

After we reported this fall that KU's two-semester Western Civilization sequence will likely no longer be required for every student seeking a Bachelor of Arts degree from the CLAS, it prompted consternation in some corners. The Western Civ program is obviously important to a lot of folks. One guest column from a former KU student body president worried it was an indication that KU would become a "glorified trade school."

But Anderson told me Tuesday that a well-rounded liberal-arts-and-sciences education is not on the way out.

Yes, KU officials have said they want to reduce the general-education load on students; right now for a BA from the College, they need to take 70-plus credit hours' worth of gen-ed courses, which those officials say is pretty seriously out of whack compared with other similar universities.

So the new Core curriculum, which will be the first ever to apply to all KU undergraduates in any school, will require only about 36 hours of general education. And you can see from the list of classes already approved that students will have a range of options for each of its 12 required units.

But at the same time that university-wide effort is going on, the College is considering its own degree requirements. That's pretty significant, as about two-thirds of all KU undergrads are in the College. The aim is still a more streamlined general-education experience, but students seeking a BA will likely still have some additional requirements for the sake of a well-rounded education, he said.

What those additional requirements might be is still being sorted out, so he couldn't provide many details. But he said laboratory science courses and foreign languages were two areas being discussed. More broadly, he said the College will aim to produce students with some knowledge of science, familiarity with Western heritage but also the rest of the world, mathematical skills and more.

Overall, he said the goal will be to "prepare the whole person." We'll keep you updated as things come more clearly into focus, likely in the middle of the spring semester.


blindrabbit 5 years, 5 months ago

Balderdash! KU CLAS is in the "Prevention Mode" hoping to avoid shrinking income from students now attending Juco's, Online's, Private's and other State institutions. Reduction in the CLAS core curriculum is just part of the dumbing down fashion trend so popular in the country.

fu7il3 5 years, 5 months ago

70 credits would have been a little high compared to similar institutions, but 36 might be a little low from what I've seen at other universities. He can say that a well-rounded education is not on its way out, but he is saying one thing and and doing the other. I won't blame the university though. There are a lot of students who aren't coming to college to learn, but to get a degree. Those are two very different things. They see classes outside their major as a hassle rather than an opportunity to learn new perspectives about the world.

merickson 5 years, 5 months ago

Hey fu7il3,

Thanks for commenting. Just to clarify: The dean's comments to me indicate that Liberal Arts and Sciences students pursing BA degrees will end up having more than 36 hours' worth of general-education requirements. The Core curriculum, which will apply to all KU undergrads, will contain that many; but the individual schools and the College will have some latitude to determine additional requirements on top of that. And the dean indicated the College will want to beef up BA-seeking students' liberal-arts education to some degree above and beyond those Core requirements. Details about how much exactly should come out in the spring sometime.

Thanks again,

Matt Erickson

KU reporter

Steve Bunch 5 years, 5 months ago

"Prepare the whole person....." Whatever that means. The sad fact is that education has become a commodity. "A tawdry cheapness shall outlast our days."

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