Adventures in school politics

For several years, Wheaton has been in the process of reforming our general education curriculum. Since May, I have joined a group of faculty and administrators in the most recent leg of the race: the General Education Summit. Throughout this experience, the enthusiasm with which my own perspective has been received has encouraged me, and I leave each meeting praising God for the care our professors and leaders have for us, the student body.

The “summiteers” spent many prayerful hours discussing the value of the liberal arts, the purpose of general education and the needs of students. We dreamed up a program that I believe will significantly improve the already outstanding education we receive at Wheaton, and I am thrilled to share it with you.

The proposed curriculum consists of three main parts:

  1. The Shared Core, which will allow students to better engage the learning process. It creates a developmental framework for Wheaton’s favorite thing: the integration of faith and learning.
  2. First Year Seminar: Enduring Questions — a small seminar course that introduces students to the process of learning through inquiry by having them wrestle with theologically rich, age-old questions such as “Can war be just?” What a way to say, “Welcome to Wheaton.”
  3. Advanced Seminar: Integrative Issues — a small, often co-taught, seminar course in which students apply liberal arts learning to an interdisciplinary topic.
  4. Senior Capstone: Disciplinary Questions and Vocational Challenges — a capstone housed in students’ majors that prepares students to apply liberal arts learning to life after Wheaton.

This core will also include Old Testament, New Testament and Christian Thought.

  1. The Core Competencies — similar to our competency requirements now, this includes writing, foreign language, wellness, and oral communication.

III. The Thematic Core — distributional requirements are replaced with outcomes-focused themes. Certain courses will be “tagged” with one or two of 10 themes, which range from Great Texts to Diversity: Global Focus. Themes are assigned based on course content rather than on department or division, and students can double-dip along the way. For example, a student might meet the Social Inquiry theme and the Scientific Issues and Perspectives theme with one four-credit course on the anthropology of energy. This model encourages professors to develop innovative, interdisciplinary courses, and it lowers the number of credits students take to complete their general education requirements. Because it varies considerably from our current curriculum, this section is difficult to explain in so few words, but here is the bottom line: creative, flexible scheduling and deeper ownership for each student in their education.

Of course, these few paragraphs are only a brief summary of a detailed, thoughtful plan that we have spent months developing. The faculty and SG plan to vote on the proposal in November, but in the meantime, I encourage you to watch for an email from SG with more detailed information about the proposal itself and an informational event that will occur shortly after fall break. Please continue praying for the general education reform process and all of us involved and know that SG is always eager to connect with you.

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