Committee members lead university-wide forum, allowing faculty to comment on proposal that would make the biggest changes to the core curriculum since 1969
In the most recent proposal released by the Core Curriculum Review Committee (CCRC) on December 3 of last year, the committee urges “a renewed commitment to distinctively Catholic dimensions within the liberal arts,” as well as, with respect to the number of Catholics on the faculty, an intention “to build faculty strength in intellectual areas consonant with the traditions of Catholicism.”
On February 15, the co-chairs of the CCRC, Mike Hildreth, Professor of Physics, and John McGreevy, Dean of the College of Arts and Letters, led a university-wide forum to allow faculty and students to discuss the proposal.
The co-chairs quoted student feedback, noting that students said “the current core was rather rigid.” Turning to the proposal itself, Hildreth and McGreevy said the changes would “enhance faculty ownership of curriculum and increase student flexibility by framing the core around ‘ways of knowing;’ deepen Catholic identity with renewed appreciation of theology and philosophy and develop ‘Catholicism and the Disciplines’ courses; diminish the number of core curriculum requirements for many students; ensure the most experienced faculty teach a higher percentage of introductory courses in the core; and eliminate use of AP credit to test out of core course requirements.”
The opportunity to discuss how the university might foster a renewed commitment to a Catholic liberal arts education and whether the CCRC proposal is conducive to that end was not grasped. Instead, the majority of professors asked questions pertaining only to their department and field, not asking about the whole core and the philosophy behind it.
Father Bill Miscamble, CSC, Professor of History, did point out at the forum that the “core curriculum should be guided by some comprehensive conception of what an educated Catholic should know,” alluding to professor of philosophy Alfred Freddoso, who first questioned whether the university taught the certain knowledge a Catholic should know.
While Fr. Miscamble lauded the committee’s wish to teach a “superb Catholic liberal arts education,” he stated, as he wrote in the Rover’s February 11 issue, that the proposal does not go far enough in giving students that body of knowledge Catholics should have. He questioned whether the proposed “Integration” course and the students’ choice in regard to their philosophy education actually follow through on the committee’s promise to have a liberal arts education in the Catholic perspective.
“We should be saying that we know something about education in a Catholic university and this is what you should take,” Fr. Miscamble continued. “If you do not want to take these certain core classes that teach what an educated Catholic should know, then you should go somewhere else,” he asserted.
McGreevy responded to these questions by saying, “We think we do have a framework that conveys what a liberal arts education in a Catholic context should be.”
In a comment to the Rover, Fr. Miscamble said, “I was disappointed at the poor attendance at the forum. Perhaps it reflects a resignation on the part of many faculty and students that the curriculum revisions already have been determined and discussion of them is pointless.
“I would like the Review Committee to redirect their focus away from ‘flexibility’ and mere distribution requirements,” he continued. “Instead, it should give serious attention to specific courses and content appropriate for what a thoughtful Catholic should know today.”
John Ryan is a freshman studying theology and philosophy. He spends his free time listening to Coldplay and scrolling through old Catholic Memes posts. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.