Critical thinking for a better world!

I was grousing quite a bit in my last post about the possible future of the education system in the U.S., but it also made me energized to come back and try, even in some small way, to make a positive contribution and have my voice heard. Everyone can have an impact!

As this is a blog on General Education, I should not venture too far from my wheelhouse — and I found a perfect article to take me back there. This nice little write-up from the Hays Free Press touts the importance of both critical thinking and using your library; who knew?! It even gives a shout out to Opposing Viewspoints, one of my favorite databases. Here, you can find succinct, thoughtfully written viewpoints from both sides of the spectrum on a number of issues. As the author says, thought, it’s not free so here is yet another vital reason that we need our libraries!

It’s encouraging to read that there are still those who appreciate what your library can do for you and how working to think critically can make you a better person. The article presents a simple but profound message.

Finding the value in “bad writing”

The Chronicle published a great little blog post today about finding the value in bad writing. I’d love to try this in some of my courses; does anyone have any experience with this?

I can see this going beyond a creative writing or journalism course. If you incorporated some writing exercises into a lit course, for example, you could show how difficult it can be to really create a thoughtful story!

Here is the article from the Chronicle:


Inventive changes coming to Boston University’s General Education Program

It looks possible that there are some very interesting changes coming to the BU Gen Ed program. I’m not aware of how many schools, if any, have implemented these kinds of changes in their Gen Ed curriculum, but I’d love to learn more. This seems like a great way for a large institution to help students make theoretical and practical connections.

If approved, BU will have its Gen Ed program be University-wide as opposed to being specific by college. This would certainly require a lot of thought and preliminary discussion, but it could be very successful. At the small business school where I work, it’s easy to have all the students use the same Gen Ed curriculum — but I wonder what the response will be from students at a university of this size?

The comments seem, as usual, to range from optimism to frustration. General Education programs seem to make few people happy in the moment, but that’s OK; the benefits to the overall learning of the student is well worth it down the road! If anyone has any experience with this type of program, please share!

Recent news about General Education

So I’ve become one of those bloggers! I was doing really well, making sure I posted thoughtful content regularly, and then I disappeared. My apologies! Like just gets in the way sometimes, but I’m more committed than ever to write about and share any news I find interesting about the world of General Education.

On that note, I read two great items this week. First, a student at the University of North Carolina – Wilmington wrote a very encouraging letter to her school paper about the importance of General Education. I was fairly surprised to see that. Each term I look at these letters that are published online, and like clockwork, I see the ones that come in about how Gen Ed requirements are a waste of time and money. This letter made for a very refreshing change. This student understands that, when done thoughtfully, Gen Ed courses can open your mind to new ideas and give you important new experiences. She even went as far as to proclaim that we may be pleasantly surprised by what we find. Huzzah! I’m very grateful to her for her honest and thoughtful appraisal.

A few days later, I came across the proposed Gen Ed changes at both Harvard and Duke Universities. These sound like very intriguing ideas, and ones that should be explored. As much as I support a “traditional” approach to Gen Ed, any way that we can get students to embrace these courses helps a great deal. Ideas like pass-fail and mentorship may not work for each institution, but they are worth looking into.

I’d love to know if anyone from any other institution has tried these ideas, and if so, what have the results been. Thank you all!



The value of General Education

General education is always on my mind — I love my job, and I love working with our thoughtful, hard-working and curious students! I get excited about the fact that, at our school, the students will get a new, and hopefully challenging and fun new experience. Perhaps they will discover a love of art, or read a piece of literature that will open their minds to new ideas. I’m lucky, as the majority of my students understand and appreciate the need for courses outside of their majors.

But I also see that this appreciation is becoming less and less the case. Students have always battled against taking Gen Ed courses, so that is nothing new. What does seem more widespread is how vocal students are becoming. I often search for interesting articles or news stories about Gen Ed, and more often than not, I will find at least three articles from college newspapers — and the tone is not positive. It goes beyond just displeasure about taking a particular course; there is a feeling that General Education actually hurts these students, by taking them away from their majors.

This is not a student problem, but one that must be addressed by faculty and administration. If so many students are feeling this way, then clearly, we are not doing a good enough job of explaining to students the need and the value in General Education. College should not just be about taking courses to get a job — it’s about becoming a whole person. A college really does have a duty to enrich students lives, not just prepare them for a career. If an institution simply thinks of students as consumers, then Gen Ed won’t matter. But if we do what is right and make college a thoughtful learning experience, we need to work harder to get the right message to our students.