The 95 General Education Theses 1.

Maybe it wouldn’t be part of a “unification of knowledge,” but I personally, all by myself, could design a far superior general education program than the one we have now. 2. Plenty of other faculty could also. 3. Unification of knowledge inevitably requires curriculum design by committee. 4. Design by committee inevitably leads to loss in educational coherence and focus over time. 5. Design by committee inevitably leads to unhappiness for those who are required to teach the committee-designed courses (especially if they were not on the committee). 6. Faculty members will never agree on what knowledge should be part of the unification. 7. In the last 26 years (my tenure here), we have never discussed whether or not unification of knowledge should be one of our ruling ideas for general education. 8. In the last 26 years, we have never discussed whether or not values-based education should be one of our ruling ideas for general education. 9. Harry Ellis is right. We have never even discussed how much of a student’s educational experience should be devoted to general education. 10. In the last 26 years, we have never discussed as an entire faculty whether or not universal participation in the freshman core program should be required of all faculty. 11. It is claimed that in the GE review of 1993-95 “universal participation of faculty was affirmed.” The word “affirmed” should be replaced by “assumed.” We never specifically voted on or even discussed this point. 12. The true purpose of general education is to benefit the students, not the faculty. 13. It is scandalous that many faculty consider WHGC to be more beneficial for the education of the faculty in the liberal arts than the students. {Appendix 9.1, p. 324, Self Study — 2000} 14. It is scandalous that many faculty consider the primary benefit of WHGC to be just having faculty meet each other. {Appendix 9.1, p. 324, Self Study — 2000} Can’t we just have a party? 15. We have not been presented with any empirical evidence showing that non-expert teaching is beneficial to students. 16. We have not even been presented with any anecdotal evidence showing that non-expert teaching is beneficial to students.

17. The claim that non-expert teaching helps students model their own learning sounds like an after-the-fact rationalization by those who have already decided that non-expert teaching is a good idea. 18. I have never had a student tell me that he or she has mastered some principle in chemistry by watching a sociologist WHGC teacher learn romantic poetry. 19. I master (if that is the right word) WHGC materials by reading them privately in my living room while underlining and making marginal notes as I go along. No student has ever witnessed me doing this. 20. The non-expert approach has yet to be adopted by a single medical school. Thank God. 21. If non-expert teaching is so valued, no person should ever teach WHGC more than once lest he/she gain some expertise. 22. Alternatively, we could have a 100% turnover in reading materials every year. 23. Considering some of the WHGC texts we have chosen recently, the above might be a good idea for pedagogical reasons. 24. One faculty member complained at our GE faculty meeting that the close-reading approach used by people in the humanities (and science too for that matter) is not learned by our WHGC students. What else would one expect? 25. The same faculty member complained at our GE faculty meeting (sorry about the loose paraphrase) that instead of the close-reading approach, faculty just toss out a few major ideas and allow students to express their opinions. Sorry, but that’s my usual lesson plan. 26. I bet lots of others have the same lesson plan. 27. Another faculty member complained at our GE faculty meeting (again, sorry about the loose paraphrase) that students never master any particular body of knowledge in WHGC. Of course not. What else would one expect from a broad survey course taught by non-experts? 28. Actually as a non-expert, I am grateful that WHGC is a broad survey course. If we had to discuss any text, concept, or belief in some depth, I would quickly run out of things to say. 29. In the depth vs. breath argument, depth is really hard. What should we really expect from just freshmen? 30. If we really want depth, WHGC fits much better in the sophomore year. 31. If we believe in the Perry model, sophomores would be much more capable of addressing the issues and topics of WHGC.

32. A revised WHGC in the sophomore year would be a much more pleasant course because it would be stripped of the mentoring, skill building, etc. that gets dumped into the freshman course. 33. Every current WHGC section usually has 1-3 students who don’t even belong in college. WHGC in the sophomore year would be a much more pleasant course to teach without those students. 34. WHGC is fundamentally a humanities course, with particular emphasis on that portion of the humanities Eckerd puts in the Letters Collegium. 35. A serious indictment of WHGC is that only 19 freshmen chose a major in the Letters Collegium this year. 36. Apparently WHGC is not an effective vehicle for creating enthusiasm for the humanities. 37. If I were in the Letters Collegium, I would be mad as hell. 38. If I were in the Letters Collegium (or any collegium), I would be worried about Eckerd College becoming Eck Tech. 39. If I were in the Letters Collegium, I would demand complete control over the WHGC curriculum. 40. If I were in the Letters Collegium, I would demand complete control over the WHGC staffing. 41. The eventual extinction of literature, history, religion, and philosophy as majors (even if kept on the books) will be the practical and inevitable consequence of retaining our current model of freshmen core. 42. Are we really a liberal arts college if so few students major in traditional humanities? 43. Congratulations to the general education review committee for recognizing the serious staffing difficulties we have in the sciences. We have had to use adjuncts in chemistry every year since 1996 to cover our courses. We have used faculty overloads longer than that. 44. However, the proposal to give released time to a GE faculty associate will make our science course staffing difficulties worse. 45. However, the proposal to reduce the student-faculty ratio in the first year program will make our science course staffing difficulties worse. 46. However, the proposal to require faculty commitment to the first year program and QFM every 3 to 4 years will make our science course staffing difficulties worse.

47. Every once in a while reality trumps noble intentions. Our requirement to generate a budget surplus every year for the foreseeable future means that we will not be able to hire more faculty to solve our GE and discipline staffing needs. 48. We should not implement any GE program changes that will require additional staff. 49. I’ve lost track of the number of times it was proposed that a stipend be paid for some particular duty or service involved with GE. Did we faculty not come here to Eckerd because of our love for the liberal arts? Why should a stipend be required to perform all services related to GE? Are we motivated only by the love of money and not the love of the liberal arts? 50. If we are just mercenaries, the solution to the WHGC staffing problem is obvious. Every year each faculty member would submit a sealed bid to the Dean with the amount of money he/she would need to teach WHGC. The Dean would then accept enough of the lowest bids to fully staff the course. 51. The above absolutely guarantees the happiest possible WHGC staff. All would be working for what they think they deserve. 52. The above absolutely guarantees that College Council and others will no longer need to spend time trying to recruit WHGC faculty. 53. Since some faculty really love the course, they would teach it for free. This might even save the college money over the stipends currently paid. We could reward those people with some kind of token recognition. 54. The same model for funding QFM would work equally well. 55. The amount of money currently paid and proposed to be paid for stipends could probably pay for 2-3 additional faculty members. 56. An additional 2-3 faculty members could solve a lot of staffing problems. 57. Or give everyone on the faculty a raise of $1000-$2000. 58. Faculty who are working to make their own disciplines successful work just as hard or harder than those who are teaching in general education. 59. And successful disciplines are critical to the institution because students come to college for a major and not for general education. 60. The stipend currently paid to WHGC staff is of no documented benefit to our students. 61. The stipend currently paid to WHGC staff is irrelevant to helping them teach the course. 62. Released time would be extremely valuable in helping WHGC staff teach the course.

63. But this idea is a nonstarter because of discipline staffing needs. 64. Why does the committee of five GE faculty associates need to compensated by either a course reduction or stipend? Couldn’t this just be one of our standing faculty committees whose members are compensated the same as we all are (zero)? 65. I predict that a major portion of the work of this committee will be to try recruit more faculty for general education. 66. The committee of five should teach a section of WHGC or QFM instead of getting a course reduction. 67. Operationally, participation in general education at Eckerd has always really meant only teaching WHGC. 68. Apparently at Eckerd, teaching a perspective course is not recognized as participation in general education. 69. The draft document now extends participation in general education to include QFM. Apparently, teaching a perspective course will still not be recognized as participation in general education. 70. Why do we have perspective courses at all if they are not considered (really) part of general education? 71. How can almost every other institution of higher learning require students to take at least one and usually two laboratory science courses, but Eckerd can’t? 72. But it is now absolutely impossible with the current number of faculty for the NAS collegium to staff laboratories for the “N” perspective courses. 73. Well maybe we could. We usually supply about a half dozen faculty a year for WHGC. That’s 2 courses plus a winter term for each NAS faculty member in WHGC. About 18 total courses. I bet we could staff a sufficient number of courses with labs with 18 additional slots a year available. 74. The very best proposal coming from the GE draft document is to remove the service component from QFM. 75. However, QFM will still remain highly unpopular with many (most?) students. 76. While the latest revisions of the QFM curriculum are “applauded,” the numerous previous revisions of QFM/JCP were applauded also. Right up until they were scrapped. 77. There is no reason why QFM needs to be in the senior year. Routinely over the last 20 years, several of my students in their junior year, but with enough credits to be technically

seniors, registered for QFM a year early. (But at their initiation, never my suggestion.) They considered QFM as just one more hoop to jump through on the way to graduation. 78. I consider it a victory when chemistry seniors look upon QFM with resignation instead of anger or derision. 79. Are chemistry majors really that different from other students in their view of QFM? 80. A true test of the popularity of QFM among students would be simple. Just add an additional course for the “H” perspective, and make QFM one of the possible choices to fulfill this requirement. How many students would freely take QFM instead of another humanities course? 81. I predict if the above were done, the staffing problem of QFM would be solved. 82. The carrot (stipends = bribes) and stick (denial of tenure or promotion) approach has never worked to solve our GE staffing problems at Eckerd. 83. The proposal of more carrots and more sticks will not solve the GE staffing problems. 84. The proposal to make teaching QFM required for promotion will not be popular among many faculty. 85. In fact the promotion requirement statement is so buried within the text, many may not even have noticed it (middle of the last full paragraph on p. 30). 86. Think about it. A professor who doesn’t want to be there teaching students who don’t want to be there. A recipe for a miserable experience for all concerned and leading to lower respect for an Eckerd education. 87. QFM is described as a “critical component of our GE program.” Why? 88. Maybe the fact that the course is “suffering from a lack of commitment from both the administration and the faculty” means that the faculty and administration do not really believe that QFM is essential. 89. The students know full well that it is not essential. They don’t need (and probably resent) being spoon fed “purpose” and “meaning” at that stage in their college career. 90. So what if non-tenure track people teach QFM? Something not worth doing is not worth doing well. 91. I smiled when I read: “If this commitment is not forthcoming, the course should be ended.” 92. But I am pessimistic about QFM being eliminated. Many will still think tinkering with the syllabus and coercion and/or bribery of faculty is all that is needed to fix it.

93. Some people will probably get pretty angry after reading this document. 94. Many are already angry or upset by one or more aspects of our GE program. 95. But at least these people really care. It’s better than giving up and dropping out of the discussion. I’m afraid some of our colleagues already have. Alan L. Soli Professor of Chemistry April 30, 2007

Master your semester with Scribd & The New York Times

Special offer for students: Only $4.99/month.

Master your semester with Scribd & The New York Times

Cancel anytime.