• Joel Brown

    Staff Writer

    Portrait of Joel Brown. An older white man with greying brown hair, beard, and mustache and wearing glasses, white collared shirt, and navy blue blazer, smiles and poses in front of a dark grey background.

    Joel Brown is a staff writer at BU Today and Bostonia magazine. He’s written more than 700 stories for the Boston Globe and has also written for the Boston Herald and the Greenfield Recorder. Profile

Comments & Discussion

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There are 20 comments on Innovative University-Wide General Education Program Proposed

  1. It sounds like something to keep the self-serving academicians busy. The bottom line: will produce a more competent graduate? The first students, who are subjected to this change will be subjects, for something that is untested and unproven.

    1. I would like to express that I wholeheartedly agree with what Logic Rules has posted. This article seems to believe that just because changing the general education requirements students are required to take naturally results in changing everything about the students taking them. Students are coming to learn, and are expected to bring the motivation with them. All this program does is make the students who know what they want waste more time on classes with no relevance to their pursuits.

      1. Well said! The Gen Ed program each school has in effect now is channeled at what students in those schools are studying. There is no reason that a student studying in CFA should have to waste their time taking classes similar to those in SMG, and vice versa. This will especially be detrimental to undeclared students who already have enough on their plate trying to figure out what to study, without having to worry about4 years of Gen Eds taking up time they could spend taking courses they may actually be interested in that coul help them determine their major.

      2. Thanks Another Person. I received a BS more than 40 years ago and a Ph.D. more than 30 years ago….I have seen many students flustered because of their wasted time and money taking classes for the exact reason you’ve quoted “no relevance to their pursuits”. What I learned in some classes that I took as a MA and Ph.D. student, should have been offered to me as an undergrad. This “General Education” is similar to what colleges touted as a “Liberal Arts” core in essence that it ensures that students takes courses in areas that the institution needs more student enrollment. Academicians are often self-serving. I really have embraced this university but often I seen the administration as being in their unique little microcosm that does not mimic the real world. After my Ph.D. and postdoc, I was a tenured faculty member, in addition to having worked in the private sector. I challenge any provost or administrator to debate me on these issues. (Who knows if they even read or will react to this POV.) Don’t waste the students’ time and money on something that is an experiment!

    2. Some people are threatened by change and improvement. Some people embrace improvement.

      When it comes down to it, the students won’t see it as change, although they may have a more positive experience. The parents won’t see it as change, although their children may have a more positive experience.

      Some faculty and staff will put out work because they believe in the potential for improvement.

      Most of the rest of us will be unaffected.

      – –

      I for one support General Ed planned by one group instead of planned by many separate groups alongside planning within their specialties. A group of professors invested in General Ed will almost certainly do better than many different groups of professors more focused on planning and teaching within their specialty.

      1. “When it comes down to it, the students won’t see it as change, although they may have a more positive experience.”

        I think you may be right there. Can I ask, Nathan, are you a student, alumnus?

      2. I am concerned about the programs that General Ed will make redundant — the Core programs in CAS and SMG, and the College of General Studies in particular. Will they continue to fulfill requirements, or will they be rendered useless and no longer be funded due to lack of interest? These are important and beneficial programs, and it would be a shame to lose them.

  2. As a current BU student, I think this is an absolutely terrible idea. All the classmates I have talked to have agreed with me when I say a general education requirement would completely ruin the appeal of this school. I thought this school was a school that moved beyond trying to force students into taking irrelevant and completely pointless classes. As an engineering student specifically, I would much rather spend my time taking classes to enhance my future career, like I am with the engineering general education requirements currently in place, then be forced to take irrelevant classes that potentially inhibit my ability to get an actual engineering job in the future. Instead of filling my schedule with important engineering concepts like computer programming or product development, I would then be filling my time with more general education classes which supply no real benefit to my professional development. If I wanted to be at a school that gave me little to no professional development courses I would repeat high school. I’m in the college of engineering for a reason; to become an engineer. And I, along with many many others, would not be pleased with this new program.

    1. The opposite would actually be true. Employers across industries want students coming out of BA/BS programs to have a breadth of background. It teaches you to think in ways you are not used to thinking. Courses in the social sciences and humanities make you a better engineer. In fact, there are many papers available for free download from the American Society for Engineering Education that support adding more writing, communication, and other liberal arts into the undergraduate degree. http://www.asee.org/search?q=humanities

    2. As an engineering student, you already do face general education requirements very similar to the ones this new program proposes: 1 social science, 1 humanity, 1 social science or humanity, Writing 100/150, and a general education elective that must be from a college outside engineering. The same “irrelevant” courses.

      If the idea of this Cross-College Challenge sounds offensive and alien to you, I’d say you should revisit the idea of the Societal Engineer. The entire mission of ENG is to output competent engineers who are great at groupwork, communicate effectively, and understand the world well enough to be able to put any problem into context.

    3. Alina, You are correct. This general education requirement is a scheme. it is unproven. it has not been tested or proven to be successful. It is an experiment that students will be used as “test subjects”.

  3. BU is a liberal arts university. This isn’t changing anything, it is just unifying what each school already requires. If students don’t want a liberal arts education, they chose the wrong place to study. It’s about time the classes became unified if they are all so similar. However, I hope that doesn’t diminish the choices available to students. Unifying should not mean taking away options.

    On another note, I hope early decision students were given an option to opt out! Can’t change the rules in the middle of prime application/acceptance season.

    1. BU is a research university, not a “liberal arts” university. We do contain a liberal arts college (CAS), but we are clearly not an entire university dedicated to liberal arts.

      1. Yes, but it is clearly stated to be a proponent of liberal arts. People’s reaction of shock that BU is not purely a technical/trade school is unreasonable. Per the mission statement,

        “Boston University comprises a remarkable range of undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs built on a strong foundation of the liberal arts and sciences.”

        1. Please read above. I know it’s a leading research institution but what’s also in the same mission statement is their dedication to a strong foundation of liberal arts. If you sign up for BU, you know you will be learning with a liberal arts component. Should not come as a surprise that BU is implementing this program.

  4. As an elderly man, who is not likely to be affected by any decision, I am both saddened and appalled by the many negative comments to this promising proposal regarding general education.
    First, this idea is hardly new: it goes back at least to 1919 when Columbia College introduced the practice. Since I have never studied the history of education, I may be unaware of even earlier precedents. Similarly, the idea of learning to work in groups goes back at least one hundred years to the work of John Dewey and Abraham Flexner and was put into experimental practice at a high school connected with Teachers College of Columbia University. I attended both that high school and Columbia College. Not even for one moment have I regretted the general education that I was privileged to receive, even though it had little or nothing to do with my chosen profession. On the contrary, I feel that that was the most valuable part of my education.
    Already two hundred years ago, the historian and poet, Friedrich Schiller deplored the existence of so many Brotgelehrten [literally “bread scholars,” referring to those university students and graduates who were only interested in learning useful to their narrow careers – See Ziolkowski, T.: “German Romanticism and Its Institutions.” Princeton University Press, 1990. P.239]
    From an economic perspective [Economics being one of the subjects I have studied at BU], using one program for all ten schools promises an economy of scale that might be useful in holding down tuition costs.
    From another perspective, the very high tuition costs and the burdensome debts with which current students are forced to graduate do make comprehensible the interest of many students to get on with their careers as quickly as possible. I had the good fortune to live in a time when even students of very modest means could graduate from college and professional schools with no debts, except debts of honor [i.e. scholarships] and when education still could be regarded as part of a human being’s personal development, rather than as now, when even many educators speak in terms of capital investment in an individual and stress the increased earning capacity of college graduates.

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