Phi Beta Cons

Who Needs a Core Curriculum? Not Students

We weren’t quite prepared for the reaction to the Pope Center’s recent proposal to revamp general education at UNC–Chapel Hill.

Background: There is no core curriculum at Chapel Hill. As their generation has been doing since pre-school, high-self-esteem students “construct” their own educations, reflecting their “natural curiosity” and “desire to learn.” Students at Chapel Hill can select from 4700 courses, including such gems as “Cowboys, Samurai, and Rebels in Film and Fiction” or “The Gardens, Shrines, and Temples of Japan,” rather than, say, “American History up to 1865.”

A number of students were offended by the idea that their elders might know better than they what they ought to learn. A member of the Class of 2015 wrote: “I have chosen my own path, I have done well, and it’s my education. I am ready to do whatever it takes to protect my intellectual freedom.”

In today’s Clarion Call article, Jay Schalin and Jenna Robinson (authors of the original report) respond: “But if students already know what they need to learn, then what is the point of a college? They could just go to the library or sit in front of a computer screen all day.” They give nine other responses to critics as well.

 

 

Jane S. ShawJane S. Shaw retired as president of the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy in 2015. Before joining the Pope Center in 2006, Shaw spent 22 years in ...

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