Universities oppose humanities cut

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By Bleah B. Patterson

bpatterson13@student.alamo.edu

Faculty here is in good company with its concern about replacing a three hours of humanities with EDUC 1300, Learning Framework. Across the state, faculties of senior colleges are also concerned.

Faculty members at Texas State University and the University of Texas at Austin are shaking their heads at core changes the Alamo Colleges is pursuing.

Alamo Colleges is awaiting the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s announcement on approval of the change, which would require every arts and sciences and applied science degree at all district colleges to require the course. It will include instruction in Stephen Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.”

“The Alamo Colleges are absolutely wrong,” Dr. Larry Carver, English professor and director of liberal arts at UT-Austin, said in a phone interview Tuesday. “Taking humanities from the core will prevent students from thriving in this world, and they’ll be poorer for it.”

From Russian conflicts and terrorism prevention to climate change, drought and ecological degradation, Carver said none of the day’s vital issues can be solved without exposure to the humanistic disciplines of literature, philosophy and basic humanities. “The humanities are absolutely central to everything we do,” he said.

Carver said people have an abundance of scientific expertise, research, equipment and technological advances, which will be futile without courses that put the human experience back into society.

“Imagine politicians, engineers and scientists without a sense of our past or ideals of our culture,” Carver said. “As far as business and life skills go, learning frameworks courses cannot do justice to the writing and communication skills you gain in courses like literature.”

Dr. Lucy Harney, associate dean for academic affairs at Texas State’s School of Liberal Arts, cringes when she sees courses like EDUC 1300, Learning Framework, replacing literature and philosophy courses.

“Things like this are going to make universities vocational institutes without historical or philosophical exposure,” Harney said. “That’s where I see us heading. Some schools are already there.”

Harney said for the first time in history, people will be graduating with impressive degrees without ever taking philosophy or critiquing the Great American novel, “They’ll be a little stupider and have less perspective.”

Harney recalled fall 2009 when the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board began requiring schools to reduce the core curriculum.

“All of this is being driven by the Coordinating Board, the people at the top,” she said. “The way they laid it out was to get rid of one hour of science lab and three of the six humanities hours.”

Texas State, prior to the Coordinating Board’s change, required students to take three hours of literature and three hours of philosophy to satisfy the six hours of humanities in the core.

In addition to the classes specified in the core, Texas State allows an additional six discretionary hours, which allowed students to pick any classes to fulfill those requirements.

“A lot of us struggled with the idea of taking out six more humanities,” Harney said. “Our faculty argued the importance until we won the battle.”

To compromise, they took three hours of philosophy and placed them within those six discretionary hours and added three communication hours to fill the remaining three, leaving three hours of literature under humanities.

Harney said she speaks for many in her department who are worried not only about the direction the Texas higher education system is moving, but also that if forced to make more core changes, faculty at Texas State won’t be able to win a second time.

ate dean for academic affairs at Texas State’s School of Liberal Arts, cringes when she sees courses like EDUC 1300 replacing literature and philosophy.

“Things like this are going to make universities vocational institutes without historical or philosophical exposure,” Harney said. “That’s where I see us heading. Some schools are already there.”

Harney said for the first time in history, people will be graduating with impressive degrees without taking philosophy or critiquing the Great American novel. “They’ll be a little stupider and have less perspective.”

She recalled fall 2009 when the Coordinating Board began requiring colleges to reduce the core. “All of this is being driven by the Coordinating Board, the people at the top,” she said. “The way they laid it out was to get rid of one hour of science lab and three of the six humanities hours.”

Texas State, prior to the change, required three hours each of literature and philosophy to satisfy the six hours of humanities and allowed six discretionary hours. “A lot of us struggled with the idea of taking out six more humanities,” Harney said. “Our faculty argued the importance until we won the battle.”

To compromise, they placed philosophy within the discretionary hours and added three communication hours, leaving three hours of literature under humanities.

Harney said many in her department are worried about the direction of Texas higher education, but also that if forced to make more core changes, faculty won’t win again.

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