A lot has changed since 1985. One thing that hasn’t changed very much is Northwestern’s general education curriculum.
Faculty members have been in discussion about how best to revamp NW’s general education program. Numerous changes have been proposed throughout this process. Some have been defeated and others have been accepted. One of the defeated proposals was to reduce the modern foreign language requirement from nine to eight credits.
According to Professor Kinsinger, chair of the general education task force, this proposal was supported by a majority of the faculty and would have created continuity between ancient foreign languages and modern foreign languages, along with lessening the footprint of the general education curriculum.
“The largest single component of our general education curriculum is our foreign language requirement,” Kinsinger said.
Rick Clark, chair of the modern foreign language department, disagrees that the footprint of the foreign language requirement should be reduced.
“We require a 201-level proficiency for the modern foreign language requirement, which is not necessarily a 3-semester requirement,” Clark said.
Many students do not need to take the full nine credits required. The average non-international student takes 6.4 credits of a foreign language by graduation, as many students test out of the lower-level courses.
According to Clark, modern foreign languages are different from ancient languages in that modern foreign languages have a conversational element to them.
“The third semester of modern foreign language courses focus on conversation in that language,” Clark said.
Though there will be no change to the language requirement, other changes have been tentatively accepted and approved for incoming students starting in the fall of 2013.
The first change is the restructuring of the general education package. Instead of focusing on specific courses to fulfill requirements, there will be 10 general education categories. These courses focus on gaining certain knowledge and achieving educational goals, instead of focusing on specific classes to meet a specific general education requirement.
For example, a course under the “Self and Society” requirement must fulfill learning objectives such as considering the intellectual, emotional, behavioral and spiritual aspects of personhood, reflecting on what it means to be made in the image of God and exploring perspectives on the relationships between faith and life in community.
Other changes revolve around the core general education courses. Both a first year seminar and a senior seminar will be integrated into the new general education program, and a writing-specific course will be eliminated.
The first year seminar is needed, according to Kinsinger, because the current general education program “does not orient students to the academic life at NW.” This course will focus on writing and public speaking skills and will be required of all incoming freshmen.
Also instituted in the new curriculum is the idea of “writing across the curriculum.”
“Some courses within the general education curriculum will be writing intensive, including one in a student’s major, instead of requiring a specific writing course,” Kinsinger said.
The final major change will be a senior seminar. This course will be inside a student’s major, but will have a broad focus.
“The focus of the senior seminar is integration of everything students have learned over their college experience,” Kinsinger said.
The new general education requirements will be implemented in the fall of 2013 and will only apply to incoming students.