U lacks liberal arts standards, study finds

Maggie Hessel-Mial

Students at all nine public universities in Minnesota might not be getting the education they counted on, according to a study released Thursday by the Minnesota Association of Scholars.

The report claims the schools lack a solid general education requirement foundation.

At the University’s Twin Cities campus, higher education specialists reported that students can avoid philosophy, fine arts and foreign language in their studies due to the lack of requirements in these areas.

Stephen Balch, president of the National Association of Scholars, stressed the importance of liberal education in a student’s educational career.

“Liberal arts has been hollowed out throughout our nation’s colleges and universities,” he said. “It is a great tragedy nationally and throughout Minnesota. Without the benefits that a liberal education brings, students today lack analytical skills necessary for success.”

Jim Chen, president of MAS and professor at the University’s Law School, agreed.

“With the requirements as they are, it is possible to receive a degree with no substantial training in foreign language,” Chen said. “This cries out that our universities have failed to promote the liberal and practical education of its students.”

Campuswide general education requirements must be fulfilled by all bachelor’s degree recipients

The University does not require that everyone take a foreign language because of the diversity of colleges and programs offered, said Richard Skaggs, associate dean for the College of Liberal Arts. However, each college has its own set of requirements that students in that college have to complete in order to graduate.

“Typically, across the country, bachelors of science and engineering degrees haven’t had a second language requirement,” Skaggs said. “Because of the wide variety of majors, the liberal education requirement doesn’t include a second language.”

The MAS is calling for a task force to deal with the problems the report highlighted.

“We’re going to take the lead with this issue, and actively recruit members to try and solve these problems,” said report author William Meehan III.

Because of the diversity of classes and students across campus, an ideal curriculum might be close to impossible, Skaggs said.

“Educational requirements of any institution should vary with time,” he said.

“In a small school, an ideal curriculum might be a core curriculum – a curriculum which all students are required to take,” Skaggs added. “But in a school this size, there is no one-size-fits-all curriculum.”


Maggie Hessel-Mial welcomes comments at [email protected]