Major Shift in Breadth Requirements

Major Shift in Breadth Requirements

In our recent article in Inside Higher Ed, “Fear of Being Useful,” Gerald Graff and I argued that those of us who teach in the humanities ought to be more aggressive in stressing the value of the practical skills we teach our students, and that employers in both for-profit and not-for-profit sectors are actually eager to hire students with those skills. Major Shift in Breadth Requirements

Two recent articles suggest educators, and the larger public, are beginning to embrace these arguments. The Chicago Sun-Times reports in a January 25, 2012 article, “Liberal arts grads have an edge, survey finds,” that “college graduates who, as seniors, scored highest on a standardized test to measure how well they think, reason and write — skills most associated with a liberal arts education — were far more likely to be better off financially than those who scored lowest.”

Accord to the report’s lead author, Richard Arum, a New York University professor, the report suggests “students would do well to appreciate the extent to which their development of general skills, not just majors and institution attended, is related to successful adult transitions.” And reports about the proposed new non-disciplinary, skills-based breadth requirements at Stanford University suggest faculty and administrators there seem to have already gotten the message.

According to an article about the new requirements in today’s Stanford Daily, they will replace requirements rooted in disciplinary knowledge with “a new system based primarily on seven skills deemed essential for students: esthetic and interpretive inquiry; social inquiry; scientific analysis; formal and quantitative reasoning; engaging difference; moral and ethical reasoning; and creative expression.”

This shift, of course, raises a lot of questions worth debating, and we look forward to writing more about them in the near future – and to your comments about them. You can read more about the new Stanford breadth requirements in “The Study of Undergraduate Education at Stanford University.”

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