September 21, 2003

Core curriculum at Harvard

Start making sense, by Patrick Healy (Boston Globe, Sep 21, 2003). Speculations about the direction of reform of the core curriculum at Harvard. Subtitle: "Critics say Harvard's curriculum fails to provide rigor, coherence, and basic knowledge. [President] Larry Summers is on a mission to change all that."

Today, every aspect of the curriculum is on the table -- the Core, the concentrations, faculty-student advising, students' writing skills, and even their speaking abilities. But there is a widespread belief on campus that the president is hoping most of all to transform the Core and its perceived emphasis on methods over content.

"When we consider the importance, embodied in the core, of exposing students to 'ways of knowing,' I hope that we will think more rigorously about the level of mastery we ask of our students, and more flexibly about how we let them acquire it,'' Summers declared at commencement.

It is an interesting article, placing the present curriculum reform in the context of the earlier core curricula created under the direction of James Bryan Conant (1945) and Derek Bok (1978). The present direction appears to be away from Bok and towards Conant.

Addendum (Sep 22): Michael Lopez at Highered Intelligence liked the article too. He offers an extended and ultimately pessimistic commentary.

Posted by Bas Braams at September 21, 2003 11:38 AM

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