Notes from general education archives. Compiled February 2011 by Greg Long (former Coordinator for General Education, Tim Kosiba (honors student), and Michael Kolb (Coordinator for General Education).
Courses were added and/or reviewed by the General Education Committee on a regular cycle.
The Baccalaureate Review Committee, formed by the Council on Instruction, acknowledged the pressures of providing a broad liberal education as well as given students the training necessary for a rapidly accelerating increased of knowledge in their chosen fields of study. The Committee recommended that the general education program be referred to as "common learning" in order to distinguish it from major programs. They also recommended three-tiered structure of the common learning experience: (1) core competencies (nine hours); (2) distributive studies (twelve hours of humanities and fine arts, eight hours of science and mathematics, and six hours of social science); and (3) integrative studies (six hours of interdisciplinary coursework). The also encouraged that study in classical and modern languages and literatures be included in the common learning choices.
Courses in the general education program are intended to introduce the student to a discipline or broad area of knowledge. Such courses normally make clear the scope of the discipline of which they are a part; introduce the students to the basic assumptions, postulate, or theoretical structure of the discipline; se fort the characteristic approaches or methods of inquiry of the discipline; and make clear the relationship of the course to the discipline of which it is a part and to other disciplines. To the extent possible in a given general education course, the course should develop the student’s ability to analyze problems, accurate discriminate differing points of view, identify the ramifications of various alternatives, understand relevant readings, and write clearly and coherently.
The general education requirements may be met by transfer credit, course proficiency examination or advance placement, as well as by regular credit.
Proficiency tests are available for all general education courses. For more information, contact the department offering the course.
Council on Instruction General Education Requirements
Recommendations for Revision of General Education Requirements, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Recommendation I. We recommend that the general education program for this College should fulfill these six broad objectives:
Recommendation II. We recommend that students be encouraged to spread their general education courses over their four undergraduate years.
Recommendation III. We believe that Liberal Arts students should be required to take sequences in the various areas of knowledge, as they do at present. The present list of sequences, however, needs a thorough reexamination. It has grown haphazardly through the years, and the approved courses have not been reviewed systematically for some time. Some sequences on the approved list do not meet the requirements of inclusion in a general education program. Some “sequences” have not been designed as sequences and should be restructured. Perhaps some can now be eliminated in the interest of effective utilization of limited College resources. We recommend, therefore, careful review of the present list of approved sequences and further recommend that, in order for a present sequence or a sequence proposed in the future to have a place on the approved list, it should be consistent with the following guidelines:
Recommendation IV. We recommend that the General Education Program of the College be revised to provide for sequences in three areas rather than four—that natural sciences, the social sciences, and the humanities. This is the classification system now used for the University as a whole. Each student would be required to take sequence totally sixteen hours in the natural sciences, twelve in the social sciences, and twelve in the humanities; excepting that the student could omit the sequence in the area of his major, as at present.
Recommendation V. We recommend the establishment of a Standing College Committee on the General Education Program, whose function will be to supervise in a general way the operation of the General Education Program, to review in conjunction with the concerned Division (Humanities, Social Science, etc.) approved sequences now on the list and future additions to the list. One of the main functions of the Committee would be to discuss, in conjunction with the departments concerns, whether or not courses proposed as general education sequences do indeed fulfill that purpose. This Committee should be authorized to suggest the creation of sequences not on the list where such additions would strengthen the quality of the General Education Program.
We recommend that the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences be asked to accept the Chairmanship (Ex Officio) of this Committee and that he appoint a vice-chairman to administer the business of the group.
Request for syllabi
The Undergraduate Committee on Curriculum and Instruction requests all departments to submit a syllabus of each course in general education....The syllabus for each course should consist of four parts:
Report by Committee on Curriculum and Instruction
“A liberal education...is the education which gives a man a clear, conscious view of his own opinions and judgments, a truth in developing them, an eloquence in expressing them, and a force in urging them.”
The General Education of a student’s undergraduate program is especially designed to contribute to liberal education as defined above by John Henry Newman. This definition is particularly relevant to the purposes which underlie the courses in communication as they appear below.
The undergraduate college has established the following purposes for the other areas of General Education:
Humanities: To expand the student’s understanding and appreciation of and experience in the arts; to aid the student in developing a satisfying personal philosophy.
Natural Sciences and Mathematics: To show the use of, and to give an appreciation of the scientific method of inquiry; to impart scientific facts and principles pertaining to the physical and biological world and an understanding of their implications for human welfare and survival.
Social Sciences and History: To provide knowledge in its historical perspectives as a means of preparing students to make intelligent decisions and take intelligent action in matters of social policy.
The General Education Program at Northern Illinois University by John W. Lloyd, Social Science Department, Committee on Curriculum and Instruction
In May, 1953, a crisis occurred. After three years of soul searching inquiry, complicated by a change-over from the quarter plan to the semester plan, the committee on curriculum and instruction presented to the faculty at large a revised general education program. The revised program, presented in very broad outline rather than in specific courses, was rejected by an overwhelming majority of the faculty. The curriculum committee found itself with a new problem.
The original problem facing the curriculum committee had been compounded of the familiar ingredients of inertia, lack of communication between disciplines, philosophical differences, and personalities. Time and persistent effort in breaking down the barriers to communication had begun to reduce the dimensions of the initial problem. Now, however, the issue dealt with a long established rule that no changes would be made in the general education program except with the majority consent of the faculty as a whole.
It became the task of the committee to demonstrate that growth of the university made such a “twon0meeting” procedure a handicap to curriculum modification. In November, 1954, the faculty in general meeting voted to delegate its authority to the committee on curriculum and instruction to make final decisions on the composition of the general education program provided that adequate provision was made for hearings by departments before final decisions were made. With authority delegated to it the committee proceeded to establish the curriculum as outlined herein, after full consultation with departments.
Is everyone happy about the present program? The question answers itself. By having become more constructively critical of our offerings in general education we find it difficult now to be complacent about any particular course of study or any particular “balance” between the competing demands of the humanities, the natural and the social sciences for a place in a general education program. Instead we are more frequently asking of ourselves such a question as “what contribution does our program make to developments in our students of a sense of values necessary for a life in a free society?”
We now largely accept a broad definition of general education that includes a concern for the development of values such as independence of thought, the ability to make selective judgments, the recognition of beauty in art and literature, the importance of truth, integrity, and honesty. We believe that general education should provide a framework for an appreciation of certain established disciplines at the same time recognizing that these are not static but continually evolving. We believe that general education is abidingly philosophical and seeks for unification of knowledge rather than specialization.
We have attempted to make specific our general education goals in the three areas of the humanities, the natural sciences and the social sciences as guides to course planning and instruction within and among the separate departments of the university. In short we are confident that we are not making changes in general education just for the sake of change; we do not delude ourselves with the notion that any change is progress. We are attempting to buttress our faith in the capacity of an instructional staff to make improvements in curriculum and instruction with reasoned inquiry.
The Program in General Education Approved by the Curriculum Committee October 17, 1955
Established the core and distribution categories.
Distribution = humanities (8-9 hours), natural sciences (9-11 hours), social sciences (9 hours),
Recommendations and Procedures for the Modification of General Education, Report of the Committee on Curriculum and Instruction
General education is the development of the knowledge, skills, and abilities which are the common possession of educated persons as individuals and as citizens of a free society.
General education must provide the sense of values necessary for life in a free society: truth, integrity, recognition of beauty in art and literature, independence of thought and the ability to make selective judgments.
General education must provide a framework for an appreciation of certain recognized disciplines, at the same time indicating that these are not static but continuously evolving.
We recommend that a member of the college academic staff be appointed to Coordinator of General Education under the direction of the Dean of the Faculty.
This report also referenced a curriculum committee meeting (1.28.53) with department heads that addressed the following questions
What is your department now offering in general education? What does your department consider its contributions to general education in the framework of general education goals? What suggestions, if any, would you department make for changes in scope or type of offerings in the total general education program as it now exists?