The Corner


UNC Struggles to Revise Its General-Education Curriculum

Should colleges have a core curriculum that imparts knowledge that all Americans should have? That used to be pretty much a given throughout our higher-education system, but for decades now, it has been eroding. Increasingly, students get to take whatever they want, provided they satisfy the school’s “distribution requirements.” As the number of courses that will satisfy one of those requirements has gotten larger and larger, the concept has become a joke at many schools.

One of them is the University of North Carolina. UNC is currently debating changes in its general-education requirements, and Shannon Watkins takes a critical look at that in her latest Martin Center article.

There are lots of committees at work on this, and wide fissures are evident. Watkins writes,

It will be no mean task to create a program that is acceptable to all factions, especially since some of the proposed changes represent a dramatic shift in its educational philosophy, from a knowledge-based curriculum toward one that is skills-based. Whereas there used to be an emphasis on foundational content, the committee charged with the revision instead emphasizes processes.

Whereas the old general-education curriculum at least pretended to be about guaranteeing that students would graduate with a stock of foundational knowledge, the new approach is aiming at “capacities.” Here, we start to see the heavy hand of “progressivism” since one of those “capacities” is “Diversity, Power, and Inclusion.” That’s certain to entail a load of brainwashing.

Watkins points out that the overwhelmingly leftist orientation of the UNC faculty is sure to affect the outcome. She writes,

A student learning goal for one of the courses, “Information, Ideas, and Inquiry” (III), says that “students will be able to identify biases and threats to validity in others’ interpretations of information and data.” This reflects the prevailing belief in some academic circles that all interpretations are equally valid — an obvious fallacy. The proposal also says that faculty may center this course around broad themes, many of which are popular on the left, such as “inequality.”

It’s hard to imagine that after changing the general-education program, UNC students will get a more useful, better rounded education than they do today.

Before settling on any changes, UNC’s leaders are supposed to solicit input from the entire state. They’ll no doubt pretend to listen to a vast array of ideas. In the end, though, they’ll probably let the leftists have their way.

George Leef is the director of research for the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.

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