No shortage of liberal ed. courses

The updated liberal education requirements improve the curriculum.

by Peter Hudleston

I am pleased that The Minnesota Daily has shown an interest in the changes in the liberal education requirements coming into effect in the fall. However, the recent article âÄúNew lib. ed. requirements create scheduling woesâÄù gives a misleading picture. As chairman of the Council on Liberal Education, I would like to address the issues it raised. The key concern is whether there will be enough courses meeting LE requirements within the fall 2010 schedule. I want to assure students that there will not be a shortage of courses. Comparing the number of sections of courses offered in spring 2010 with the number currently scheduled for fall 2010 based on One Stop, as is done in the article, is, for a variety of reasons, comparing apples and oranges. It is more meaningful to compare the total number of seats available in LE courses. A snapshot taken at this time last year compared to a snapshot taken now shows just over 16,000 seats for fall 2009 and just over 15,000 seats for fall 2010. Keep in mind that there are still courses in the LE review pipeline that will be approved but do not yet show as LE courses for this fall. These will add to the 15,000 seats already approved and will bring the number close to the 2009 number. The one LE category that will not have a comparable number of seats right away in the fall is the new theme of Technology and Society. I am confident that the number of courses that satisfy this theme will grow to match those of the other themes. Students who have already registered should be aware that additional courses will be approved. As soon as a course is approved to meet an LE requirement, the LE attributes are added to the class schedule and then reflected in Grad Planner and APAS. Students should use One Stop as the quickest, most current source of information about fall 2010 course offerings that meet the LE requirements. Regarding the concern that fewer courses will satisfy multiple LE requirements, I wish to clarify that the âÄúoldâÄù requirements allowed courses to satisfy two themes, or a core plus a theme. The new requirements permit a course to satisfy a core or a core plus a theme, but not two themes. There is thus some reduction in options. In comparing the old LE course list with the new, it is important to remember that the list of courses that met the old requirements was compiled from 1999 to 2010 and reflects every course approved to possibly be offered during that 11-year history. Some of these courses were offered infrequently, or not at all, and many of them had relatively small numbers of seats. The new list is just the beginning and will grow with time. It continues to include many courses that satisfy a core plus a theme (i.e., that âÄúdouble dipâÄù). In addition, the council is actively encouraging departments to consider proposing courses that double dip where appropriate, and I expect this number will grow. The article included comments from faculty who criticized the process of submitting courses for LE approval. I can understand the frustration of faculty when they are asked to take time âÄî which is in short supply âÄî to revise their LE course proposals, but not all faculty share the views expressed by those quoted. Art History professor Rick Asher wrote to me, stating âÄúI want to respond to some of the faculty discontent expressed in todayâÄôs Daily article on the LE requirements âĦ I disagree. I submitted a course some four or five times before finally it was approved. With each submission, this course, which IâÄôve offered for decades, became better and the syllabus far more lucid as a result of committee comments and very good counsel âĦ The sense that we, as instructors, have nothing to learn about teaching is mistaken. Just as I strongly favor peer review of my scholarship and believe that even copy editors have much to teach me, so I believe I have a great deal to learn about my teaching. We all do.âÄù The good news for students is that they will be offered a stronger curriculum as a result of the LE review and updating of LE courses and requirements. Students who enroll in a course that meets an LE requirement can be assured of a high-quality course. Peter Hudleston, University faculty