The Beautiful Curriculum
Joseph Ugoretz | May 1, 2010 | 4:14 pm | True? Important? Beautiful? | No comments

For this unit’s reflection, take the opportunity to design your own “curriculum.”  Like the “museum of me” this is the “college of me.”  You get to decide the perfect sequence of courses, leading to a degree.  Will it be all elective? Any required courses at all? What will they be?  If you’re a media studies major, do you need math or chemistry? If you’re an engineering major, do you need poetry or anthropology?

You can invent courses that don’t exist (and maybe next year we’ll offer them!).  You can change the standard calendar of college (why four years to a degree? Why only two semesters each year? Why should we be off in the summer?).  You can include requirements that aren’t even “courses” in the traditional sense (all students must, by the end of their first year, ride a horse up a mountain and swim in a ocean, lake, and river).

But be sure you include enough to give your students (or you) everything that an education can give.

(If you want, this one can also take a creative form–video or poetry, a chart or a table, whatever seems to make the most sense for your idea).

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College Of Me
Frieda Benun | May 12, 2011 | 11:40 pm | True? Important? Beautiful? | No comments

The “College of Me” would give students the opportunity to learn about and engage in fields that they may have never come across otherwise. One of the aspects I appreciate most about my college education is that it opens my eyes up to new ideas, subjects, and people. Opinions that I had held onto strongly for most of my life have been challenged and I have been forced (and I mean that in the most positive sense of the word) to reevaluate my beliefs. Whether it be about a group of people, a particular subject or an ideology, college has allowed me to see things in a whole new light. This has been a valuable experience for me and I think that many students could benefit from an all-encompassing education. Although most people see core classes as an inconvenience/joke/waste of time, I think that they have much to offer. Classes that teach the fundamentals biology, philosophy, and art should be incorporated into every curriculum. In my opinion, it is important that students leave college well-rounded, with a basic understanding of core fields of knowledge. Courses should be offered under three categories: humanities, arts, and natural sciences (plus math-type classes). In the ideal curriculum, students would have eight semesters of college with a month-long break in the winter and a two-month break in the summer. Each semester, students would take a class in each of the core areas, plus three additional classes. The additional classes may be counted towards a major or as an elective, however the students must graduate with at least eighteen courses in their major. If a student wished to take more electives, they could opt to take a seventh class during one semester. Six to seven classes would not be too burdensome because the core classes would not be intended as rigorous, work-intensive classes. Rather, they would be enjoyable and exploratory. The goal of the cores would be to provide students with the essentials of the subject, not in-depth technicalities. The humanities category would include but not be limited to the social sciences (e.g. psychology, sociology), history, writing, literature and philosophy. The arts would include subjects such as music, theater, film, art and perhaps even dance and cooking. The sciences would include biology, chemistry, mathematics, health and nutrition, physics and geology.

Here is my ideal schedule. Some of the classes I included are not necessarily ones that I would voluntarily take, however I recognize their value.

Fall Semester, Freshman Year

1. Humanities: Psychology 2. Arts: Film 3. Sciences: Health & Nutrition 4. Biology I 5. Chemistry I 6. Judaic Studies

I chose Biology I and Chemistry I because I planned to major in Biology, so these introductory-level classes serve as the first of my major requirement classes. They are different from the core classes, which provide an overview in the subject. These courses, however, are indented to serve as a foundation for further and more in-depth study of the subject .The Judaic Studies course is simply an elective class that I am interested in.

Spring Semester, Freshman Year

1. Humanities: Writing 2. Arts: Music 3. Sciences: Math 4. Biology II 5. Journalism I 6. Psychology I

Here, I substitute Chemistry II for Journalism because I’m having doubts. Chemistry I was brutal. Do I really want to go into a science major? I’ve always liked writing; maybe Journalism is a better major for me. Or, maybe Psychology would be better- I really enjoyed the Psychology core last semester.

Fall Semester, Sophomore Year

1. Humanities: Sociology 2. Arts: Dance 3. Sciences: Computer Science 4. Chemistry II 5. Zoology I 6. Human Physiology

Journalism and Psychology were good, but I don’t want to major in either of them. I’m willing to give Chemistry another shot.

Spring Semester, Sophomore Year

1. Humanities: Social History of the U.S. 2. Arts: Theater 3. Sciences: Physics 4. Microbiology I 5. Zoology II 6. Organic Chemistry I

I’ve declared my Biology major so I’m going full-steam, taking more advanced courses. Still, I have my lighter cores to balance out my schedule. Though Physics can get tough .

Fall Semester, Junior Year

1. Humanities: Philosophy 2. Arts: Art History 3. Sciences: Geology 4. Microbiology II 5. Genetics 6. Organic Chemistry II

Although I’m enjoying the major classes, I look most forward to the cores. Who knew Philosophy could be so stimulating? I’m thinking about minoring in it now . . .

Spring Semester, Junior Year

1. Humanities: Ancient Civilizations 2. Arts: Computer Graphics & Design 3. Sciences: Statistics 4. Evolution 5. Botany I 6. Yoga

Last semester was brutal. I should have known not to take Organic Chemistry II with Microbiology II. Now I’m taking Yoga as an elective to make sure I have that time to unwind (and get some exercise) so that my semester is not as stressful as the previous one.

Fall Semester, Senior Year

1. Humanities: Latin 2. Arts: World Cooking 3. Sciences: The Study of Disease 4. Botany II 5. Neuroscience 6. Bioinformatics

I’ve always been interested in etymology and root words- now, here’s my chance to take Latin and learn where so many of our words come from! World Cooking is also great; it shows how culinary techniques- from flavors to aesthetics- have served much more than a functional purpose for centuries. A whole new way to look at food.

Spring Semester, Senior Year

1. Humanities: American Literature 2. Arts: Poetry 3. Sciences: Astronomy 4. Ecology 5. Immunology 6. Biology Lab Research

In my last semester, I decide to get a bit more experimental in taking Poetry and Astronomy, two subjects that I knew nothing about and before college, and no desire to learn about. Yet after the positive outcomes with all of my other core classes, I decide to give these two a try. Success! I never knew I could write poetry so well! And now I’ll always be able to point out the North Star! On a more practical level, I’ve completed all of the required courses for my Biology major. I even got to end by taking a Research course, where I worked in a lab and got hands-on experience in what it might be like to pursue a career in science research.

By the end of these four years, I have what I see as the perfect balance: I am well-rounded, having taken a variety of classes that span a large range of subjects. At the same time, I majored in Biology and now emerge from college with specialized skills.

A Curriculum for the “Real World” and Non-traditional Students
Kaitlyn O'Hagan | May 12, 2011 | 8:45 pm | True? Important? Beautiful? | No comments

One of the most enjoyable aspects of my college career thus far has been interacting with non-traditional college students. Therefore, I think the ideal college curriculum would have paths and classes specifically tailored for such students, so that those who do not necessarily consider themselves academically minded or would not necessarily want to or need to seek a degree, would still attend college. Like many of my colleagues, I see a lot of value in the liberal arts curriculum for the traditional college student. Even if someone enters college thinking they know what their career aspirations or simply their major is going to be, one of the fundamental aspects of college, in my opinion, is that it allows students to experiment, and to change their minds. However, the traditional liberal arts curriculum needs modification for the non-traditional student to feel it is worthwhile to attend college and seek a degree. Indeed, some of these modifications could even apply to traditional college students seeking a liberal arts degree. I see this modification as a series of courses based around the real-world applications of typical, entry-level, college courses. Some such course ideas are listed below. Logistically, I would envision one to two of these classes replacing one subject area requirement for those seeking a traditional liberal arts education. For those seeking specific vocational or career training/education, these series of courses would act as their General Education Requirements/liberal arts core. However, these students would have the option of taking traditional liberal arts core classes if they so wished.

Math and Statistics & the Real World: Level 1

Math and Statistics in the Real World: Level 1 will give students a refresher course in math concepts up to and through pre-calculus (in the typical sequence of math courses). In addition, students will be taught how to apply math concepts to basic tasks that are necessary for financial success: balancing a checkbook, creating a budget, investing, saving etc. Students will also be taught rudimentary statistical analysis that allows them to understand the basic statistics presented in news reports and articles, as well as articles from other disciplines (i.e. social science).

Science & the Real World: Biology

Science & the Real World: Biology will give students a overview course in biology at a basic college level. Throughout the course, news about scientific breakthroughs, discoveries, and debates will be discussed from a “hard” science point of view, and high profile diseases (such as Alzheimer, Diabetes, and Autism) and the discussion surrounding them will be discussed. In addition, this class will take a look at the “hard” science behind public health.

(There would of course be more courses in the “Real World” curriculum. For example, History & the Real World might take current events and look at the historical events that led to the current situation and are relevant to understanding the current situation, as well as look at historical analogies that can help students understand major themes in history.)

Two things that would not be included in the “Real World” curriculum are foreign language and technology/computer science. Foreign language courses, in the form they exist today, would still be a requirement for all students. I believe fluency in a second language is extremely important, and if I had my way, would be taught in all schools from a very young age. Technology/computer science currently is not a requirement, even in many great liberal arts curriculum. However, I believe this is a critical flaw in education today. If there is one thing that can be taken from many of the literature we have been reading about technology and education (both fiction and nonfiction), it is that technological literacy is becoming absolutely necessary to be a successful, involved member of society. Perhaps one such technological literacy class that would be offered would fit into the “Real World” curriculum (i.e. “Technology & the Real World”). However, I would encourage most students to fulfill a computer science requirement, because, in most fields/careers it is people with this higher level of technological literacy who will be most successful (or, at the very least, this level of technological literacy will facilitate the greatest level of success).

Solely student’s interests would determine the rest of a student’s courses. Preferably, all students would have highly personalized advising so that everyone could create their own curriculum (CUNY BA style) with a mix of classes in whatever subjects they so desired (though of course, a cohesive vision would be needed to tie these classes together). Non-traditional students especially would be able to use “real world” experiential learning such as internships, apprentices, and fellowships as part of their curriculum, though of course such an option would be available to all students. Students who did this would have to write a proposal for such work to count for credit, and would have to submit an evaluation by their supervisor/boss, as well as a “final paper” or “final project” of some sort, which their advisor would then use to determine their “grade.” Students would be allowed to receive financial compensation for this work, contrary to the way most college curriculum currently works with such programs (it’s either credit or money).

In terms of timeline, it would vary from student to student. A minimum of two years would be required (this would be for students requiring minimal academic training and coursework), with a maximum time of eight years to obtain your degree (for those who want to do “four years” of full time school, but can only take classes part-time). In the end, the degree would reflect what kind of path you’d taken, but it will still be a degree – an essential requirement in today’s middle-class job market, almost regardless of occupation.

College of Me: My Curriculum
December Lange | May 12, 2011 | 2:19 pm | True? Important? Beautiful? | 1 Comment

If I could have truly created my own educational curriculum, I would have received a letter from Hogwarts when I turned eleven. However, I did not. Instead of fighting dark wizards (as I assume that is what I would be doing now), I have been left to figure out a backup plan. With this curriculum, I wanted to give students, who like me, do not necessarily know what they want to do (outside of the realm of fiction, of course!), the opportunity to really decide what they want to spend their time learning. The first couple of semesters (as you will see) revolve around personal reflection and trying to decide what you want to do as well as exploring areas that you might not have thought to explore. In my timeline, I left some information vague intentionally (ex. 5 Advanced Level Courses Required for Your Major) so that anyone would be able to visualize their own major. All of the classes and stipulations I mentioned are required to graduate from my “College of Me”. However, there is still plenty of room for exploring extracurricular and elective courses (they just were not included in my timeline). So, take a look and see how four years of your life would be spent at my “College of Me”!

College of Me Timeline

Proposing a Curriculum
Moses Sutton | May 12, 2011 | 2:03 pm | Reflections, True? Important? Beautiful? | No comments

This is a very difficult task. In a sense it requires a lot of pragmatism – to discern what subjects, courses, and requirements yield tangible success – but it also requires an unbiased clear-focused ideology and the wisdom of educational introspection. The latter points concern the make-up of this course, Alternate Worlds. How do we learn best? And the broader question: What is education?

First, I’m going to address the first point, gauging pragmatism. The biggest issue is limits. When designing a new curriculum the old must be acknowledged and what does work must be credited and saved.

One example, for instance, is the notion of a liberal arts option that produces well-rounded individuals. As I’ve discussed in my most recent paper, American colleges, for the most part, have embraced this type of curriculum more than European curricula. This is why in most American institutions (including CUNY schools) students are required to take a host of core classes on top of (or before) their major or specific subject being studied. This is an ingrained aspect of higher education in America. So any proposition to fully uproot it might ultimately be damaging and impractical.

This is where the second point, concerning a holistic ideology, comes in. In performance arts schools, such as Julliard and Manhattan School of Music, there are no liberal arts cores. This option should not be limited to art schools. This doesn’t mean that liberal arts programs be eliminated but they should be optional. When entering a university – or use any CUNY school for our purpose – a compromise would be offering a liberal arts core supplement. Those who chose to complete the core base would receive a special certification on their diploma. Once such a system is established those with full certification would have an advantage over others in the workforce thus creating an incentive but not requirement to fulfill the liberal arts program. The benefit of this curriculum is that the major or concentration receives its due attention above the cores. People need to learn how to specialize more effectively and thoroughly as early as their undergraduate years.

However, the core curriculum optional approach does not allow illiteracy or a lack of basic skills. Knowing basic reading and writing in English, and perhaps one mathematics class should be required to facilitate basic needs. Cores such as history, psychology, philosophy, sciences, etc., would make up the core curricula.

One more addition I’d make to my curriculum would be internship / real-world experience. Often there are options to receive credit for real-world experience but I would make it a requirement especially after realizing how much such experience is part of the education process through the posts in this course.