Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

U.S. Minority Culture Course Requirement Debated at Penn

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

U.S. Minority Culture Course Requirement Debated at Penn

Article excerpt

Some faculty feel proposed course serves political rather than academic interests

A recently proposed addition to the core arts and science curriculum at the University of Pennsylvania has sparked debate among its administrators and faculty about what should be taught to undergraduates and why.

"We went into curriculum [reform] to reduce the number of requirements," says Dr. Dennis DeTurck. dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. "The idea of adding another requirement has made some faculty nervous."

The debate stems from a proposal to add a second Cross Cultural Analysis Requirement (CCAR), to the undergraduate core curriculum. The initial CCAR focuses on foreign cultures, but some have argued that minority cultures in the United States should be explored as well. According to DeTurck. some faculty members are hesitant to add another requirement to their students' course loads. Others, he says, feel the proposed course serves political rather than academic interests.

"The conceptual purview of [the United States Cultural Analysis Requirement] as envisioned thus far [is] much too narrow," wrote one Penn professor in an op-ed in the Daily Pennsylvanidii, the university's student newspaper.

"Penn. like all great universities, should strive to maintain a competitively determined curriculum, reducing politically determined 'requirement sprawl' by avoiding [USCAR]-type meddling whenever possible and instead empowering and encouraging students to make their own informed decisions," wrote economics professor Dr. Francis X. Diebold in the March 26 article.

While it might appear that the goal of increasing social diversity in the United States and on college campuses has justified the establishment of diversity-focused course requirements, DeTurck says faculty at Penn want requirements to meet a more traditional academic rationale.

"I believe the intellectual argument can be made," he says, adding that a task force committee is studying the issue and will submit a formal proposal to the faculty sometime this year.

Starting this fall, first-year students in the College of Arts and Sciences will be required to complete a foreign culture class at some point in their college career to meet their CCAR obligation. Faculty approved the requirement last year, but rejected an amendment that would have allowed students to fulfill the course with one focused on American minority cultures. …

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