New General Education model should rework science

Illustration by Cyan Cowap

By Caitlin Chappell

The Liberal Arts education: a shining symbol of interdisciplinary learning and personal growth. That is how colleges like Lewis & Clark sell themselves. It is one of the main draws for many students like myself. We all know that part of the liberal arts education experience is having to take general education (GE) classes, and many welcome the chance to have a truly well-rounded education. In theory, GE classes can be an opportunity to explore new areas and try new things; however, the current GE model at LC needs tweaking. The faculty has been discussing how to change GE requirements in order to meet the mission statement of LC, which includes testing boundaries, seeking knowledge and preparing students for civic leadership.

Instead of changing the model altogether, the faculty voted to continue with the current model, but make alterations to the Core requirement and how the other requirements are distributed. Our current model is known as the Distribution and Core (DISCO) Model, and there will be alterations made to the Core requirement and how the other requirements are distributed. As every freshman has come to know, the current model includes two semesters of Exploration & Discovery (E&D) as the Core requirement and distributes the other requirements across different disciplines at LC.

The Core requirement is where we are going to likely see the most change. According to Associate Professor of Computer Science Peter Drake, a member of the General Education Steering Committee, the new Core model will most likely continue to have two classes, but only one will be a writing course. The other class could then potentially focus on quantitative reasoning. In my opinion, having a quantitative course as a Core requirement is stronger than the current model because it introduces students to quantitative classes earlier on.

“We feel like too many students wait until the last minute to get their scientific and quantitative reasoning out of the way,” Drake said. “We like people to be exposed to that earlier.”

Requiring the quantitative reasoning course to be part of the Core requirement could allow students to be exposed to STEM earlier on, which could lead to more students becoming interested in STEM in general.

In addition to reworking the Core setup, the faculty is reconsidering other requirement distributions. I believe that if Quantitative Reasoning is now a Core requirement, this opens the door to re-evaluate the Scientific and Quantitative Reasoning requirements, which I believe are in need of reworking.

I propose that if one semester of Core becomes a Quantitative Reasoning course, then there should be one fewer Science and Quantitative Reasoning GE requirement. For humanities and social science students, the current Quantitative Reasoning requirements can feel unfair. If courses in History can count towards Creative Arts and courses in Theatre can count towards International Studies, then these courses should count towards Scientific and Quantitative Reasoning. However, there are very few courses outside of STEM that count towards any of the Category A or B requirements. It is contradictory that quantitative reasoning courses in the social sciences and the humanities can be replaced by the ones in the STEM courses but not the other way around.  

Furthermore, we should learn mathematical reasoning from both a STEM and a social science perspective. Courses outside of STEM that still tackle issues within those fields should count towards these requirements. There are some classes like “Argumentation and Persuasion in Science,” a Rhetoric and Media Studies course, which examines ideas in STEM fields from a humanities and social science perspective. Yet surprisingly they do not count towards the Scientific and Quantitative Reasoning GE requirement.

While the current GE model is flawed, changes can be made to the DISCO model in order to meet the expectations of LC. The changes are still being discussed by faculty, and I believe re-evaluating the Core course and how we distribute the other requirements is a step in the right direction for an improved GE experience, especially if Core includes Quantitative Reasoning and the other requirements are distributed in a way so that no majors feel like their fields are lesser than others.

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