Rethinking the Curriculum: Toward an Integrated, Interdisciplinary College Education

By Mary E. Clark ; Sandra A. Wawrytko | Go to book overview

MAKING THE
CONNECTIONS
THE SEARCH FOR OUR
COMMON HUMANITY

Ernest L. Boyer


THE NEED FOR CONNECTIONS

I wish to begin with a story some of you have heard. In 1972, I was sitting in my office in Albany, New York. It was a dreary Monday morning and to avoid the pressures of the day I turned instinctively to the stack of third class mail I kept perched precariously on the corner of my desk to create the illusion of being very, very busy--it is an old administrative trick.

On top of the heap was the student newspaper from one of the nation's most distinguished higher learning institutions. The headline announced that the faculty had re-introduced a required course in Western Civilization, after having abolished all requirements just three years before. (Bear in mind, this was 1972.) The students, I discovered, were mightily offended by the faculty's brash act, and in a front page editorial declared that to require a course is an "illiberal act." And they concluded with this blockbuster question: "How dare they impose uniform standards on non- uniform people?"

At first I was amused, and then troubled, by that statement. I was troubled that some of America's most gifted students, after fourteen or more years of formal education, still had not learned the simple truth that while we are non-uniform, we still have many things in common. They had not discovered the simple truth that while we are autonomous human beings, with our own aptitudes and interests, we are, at the same time, deeply dependent on each other.

This brings me to the central theme of my remarks this morning. I happen to believe that the most essential goals we pursue in education are best expressed by the simple word, "connections." Students, through their formal education, should celebrate their individuality; they should affirm

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