Enhanced Distributional Requirements for Educating Global Citizens?

What would a college curriculum look like if we had more extensive distributional requirements?

image from: http://vq.vassar.edu/issues/2012/01/vassar-today/on-educating-the-global-citizen.html

Let’s say a college has four curricular divisions: Arts and Humanities, Social Sciences, Natural Sciences, Foreign Language/Global Studies.

What if 25% of the courses had to come from each division? So, if you needed 32 courses to graduate, you would have to take 8 courses in each division?

This would have some interesting consequences.

For one, all students would be much more thoroughly grounded in math and natural sciences. This would be a good thing given how much our society relies on science, math and technology. In addition all students would have much more exposure to foreign languages. If we could perhaps add some global cultural type courses into the foreign languages curricular division, which many institutions do already, our students would become much more versed in global diversity than most are today.

image from: http://cde.nwc.edu/SCI2108/course_documents/earth_moon/earth/earth_science/biosphere/biosphere.htm

Of course, the idea of a major would need some rethinking. Given most college students have some idea of what they want to major in by their third semester in college, perhaps majors with six courses would be in-depth enough? Or, might traditional majors consider the addition of courses from other curricular divisions?

I am in the Biology department, so let me try this idea out.

Let’s say a biology major consisted of ten courses, of which two would be outside the natural sciences curricular division. What might it look like?

Introductory Biology (2 courses), Introductory Chemistry (2 courses), three courses at the intermediate level, with one of them outside the curricular division, three courses at the advanced level, with one of them outside the curricular division. The sorts of courses outside the curricular division could include things like media communications, science writing, or science and society. Or, how about “The Biosphere in the Global Economy”? These two out-of-division courses could be tailored to suit a particular student’s interests and passions.

Science, politics, economics, human behavior, culture…..these issues are all mixed together in the real world, aren’t they? It’s exciting to consider the kinds of opportunities for cross-disciplinary work that could be developed!

Here at Vassar, we pride ourselves on our multidisciplinary programs. We often tell ourselves that these programs are where curricular innovations occur. Why? What are the barriers to innovation within traditional fields of study?

I think it’s time we re-think what an educated college graduate looks like. We need our graduates to be able to participate in and be leaders in our complex, interconnected world. To be Global Citizens.

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