Thursday, 4:30 PM
Professors outline first Harvard curriculum overhaul in 30 years
By Marcella Bombardieri, Globe Staff
A Harvard College education should focus more on what it means to be a citizen in the 21st century, according to the report issued today by a panel of professors redesigning the curriculum for the first time in three decades.
The task force laid out a vision for general education, which is the portion of an undergraduate's class work that is required but not part of his or her major. It adds up to about a year's worth of work.
Harvard's current curriculum, known as the Core, was designed in the 1970s to emphasize exposing students to the ways in which scholars in different academic disciplines think about the world. It has been criticized for being too cloistered in its Ivory Tower and not relevant enough.
"A liberal arts education is not about going off for four years and studying in a closet -- and then your life starts," said Alison Simmons, co-chair of the task force. "We think a liberal arts education affects the life you'll lead. It'll make you think differently and understand yourself and the world better."
The group had already jettisoned an aspect of their proposal that made waves last fall -- the idea that every student should take a class dealing with religion. Some professors thought it gave too much emphasis to one topic. However, members of the task force said that religion is covered by several categories, including one called "Culture and Belief."
Another big change from the current curriculum that remains in the proposal is a requirement that each student take a course dealing with the United States.
Each student would be required to take one course in each of eight areas. The other six are Societies of the World, Science of Living Systems, Science of the Physical University, Ethical Reasoning, Empirical Reasoning, and Aesthetic and Interpretive Understanding, which focuses on cultural expression such as literature, art and music.
Professors will discuss the report in a meeting next week and are likely to vote on it later this spring.