Saturday, April 19, 2008

Down with GCRs...

I got an email from CCAS the other day that opened, "The Columbian College General Curriculum Committee is seeking student opinions regarding reform of the college’s General Curriculum Requirements (GCR)." Normally I just delete such emails, but this time I thought, 'great! I can share my opinion on (read: hatred of) the current GCR regime'.

The survey started with pretty standard multiple choice questions, but when text boxes were an option I wrote over and over that there are too many GCRs required and they, ironically, get in the way of becoming more well rounded and educated in things I actually care about. Instead, they force me to 'check the box' by showing up to baby classes where I learn nothing. The Hatchet's Claire Autruong correctly asserted in this Thursday's issue,

It's worth remembering that most GW students come from high schools that have already stressed the importance of a well-rounded education as the first basic step in the college admissions game. For many, college is a place where they want to take control of their own educations and specialize in an area that will ideally become the core of their future, or at least represent their true interests. The current GCRs restrict students' abilities to exceed the bare-minimum requirements in their major and to pick up second majors and minors.

They also vitally detract from the quality of the classroom community. As history professor and department chair Tyler Anbinder told The Hatchet in October, "There are students who don't like history. I don't want them in my class, as much as I think all people should take history." Ten minutes in a vast lecture hall filled with fidgeting, apathetic students in an introductory biology course for non-majors is all it takes for a casual observer to conclude the same - students and professors are not better-served by the environment in compulsory courses.

Some of the best classes I've taken at GW are the few that
fulfill no requirements I've been able to squeeze in. That is, taken strictly to further my knowledge of a topic (like SMPA 194).

Its much easier for CCAS to say they produce well rounded students when they can point to a list of GCRs that cover every major disipline. Its much harder for them to make an empirical case for the same by saying 'we let students have free run of the place and let them take whatever interests them', even if the latter is the right thing to do.

I hope something comes of this research...

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