Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Elephant in the Room

Let us be blunt: Core Curriculum revision means more work and less autonomy for faculty. It means an increase in work that does not contribute to our own professional development or research. And it means more supervision and surveillance, as we are forced to define our aims and to structure our courses and programs to conform to the pedagogical agendas mandated by Core Curriculum Commissars.

This is the elephant in the room that many faculty are too polite to acknowledge. We are (at least officially) idealists, committed to giving students the best possible education, even at our own expense, and so recoil at the idea of promoting our own professional self-interest. We are, whether male or female, "such gentlemen" (as Iris Murdoch once put it) that we recoil from the crass statement: "This program will crap up my life."

That it will--and that it will undermine research, as we sweat and break our backs to comply with the pedagogical demands of the Core Curriculum agenda--is a fact. It is however speculative whether, if implemented, it would benefit students--or rather whether it would provide the benefits we would like to convey rather than vocational training, entertainment and test prep for our "customers."

It's too easy to lose sight of the fundamental flaw of the Core Curriculum revision program because of its unwieldy complexity. But the bottom line is the: Core Curriculum will make our professional lives much, much worse. is this where we're headed?


Thursday, November 14, 2013

A call to simplify Core governance

Thank you for putting this together, H. E. I'd like to a share a letter I wrote concerning the governance structure proposed for the new Core Curriculum. I first became concerned when we received a survey a few months ago proposing different governance models -- all of which were more complicated and cumbersome than what we have at present. I shared these concerns with Kristin Moran during her meeting with the Music Department, and she asked me to draft those in the form of a letter to share with the committee. This letter has also been shared with members of the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee.

I note also that the Oct., 2013 report from the Catholic Intellectual Tradition working group that we were encouraged to examine at the most recently Assembly meeting presents three variations all of which seem to call for a complicated governance structure. The report is here:

My letter follows below. (In the letter I use the acronym "CC" but I probably should have used
"UCC" for the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee so it remains distinct from the
Core Curriculum Committee, "CCC".)

--- Christopher Adler, Dept. of Music

Date:   Sept. 22, 2013

To:       Kristin Moran, Chair, Core Planning Committee

From:  Christopher Adler, Music Department

cc:        David Harnish, Chair, Music Department
            James Gump, Chair, CAS Curriculum Committee

Re:       Core Curriculum governance

Dear Kristin,

            Following up on our discussion in your meeting with the Music Department, this letter summarizes my thoughts about the governance of a new Core Curriculum. I am concerned that the creation of new standing committees would add unnecessary and cumbersome bureaucracy, would be burdensome for departments seeking approval for new courses, and would consume the limited time of too many faculty. Once a new Core Curriculum is approved, with clearly defined learning outcomes and menus of current courses that meet those outcomes, the CAS Curriculum Committee (CC) is fully capable of overseeing the approval of new courses into the Core Curriculum, and revisions to existing courses. With members from every department and program, the CC is the most representative body in the College besides the Assembly and can fairly consider the interests of every department.
            The creation of special committees to oversee individual learning outcomes, especially with representation biased towards individual departments, is contrary to the spirit of a Core Curriculum that should serve the College first and represent a shared vision of the Liberal Arts. If learning outcomes have been stated clearly, they should be comprehensible by everyone in the College, and the CC should be capable of assessing how individual courses fit those outcomes just as well as any other less representative body. The CC already overviews every new course created in every department in the College, and gives attention to how learning outcomes are met and how the course and the outcomes coincide with others from the same department.
            With the new Core Curriculum, we have the opportunity to remove the redundant and confusing structure that currently exists, whereby new courses intended for the Core must pass both a Core Curriculum Committee and the College CC. Once a Core Curriculum has been established, subsequent changes will be incremental, such as new courses being added to existing menus of options, and existing courses being revised or removed. Using the menus of courses approved by the Assembly, the CC will be able to gauge the consistency of newly proposed courses with the learning outcomes and the existing menus of courses. Therefore there would be no rapid erosion of departmental privileges with respect to certain learning outcomes or Core categories.
            The Core Curriculum should represent the values that are widely shared among departments in the Liberal Arts, and should have the broadest possible acceptance from faculty in every department. If the Core does indeed represent these qualities, then the College-wide representation of the CC provides the best forum for maintaining the spirit and intellectual integrity of the Core Curriculum.
            I note that, having served as a member of the CC for well over a decade, the committee has ample time to consider new courses for the Core Curriculum once it has been established. At present, the CC already reviews every new course from every department in the College, including Honors Courses that come from the School of Business, and including all courses intended for the Core. Therefore, eliminating a standing Core Curriculum Committee once the new Core Curriculum is approved will not pose an undue burden on the CC.
            Finally, I want to stress that my proposal is for the CC to oversee new courses and revision to the Core Curriculum after the new Core has been approved by the Assembly, including full menus of courses fulfilling all categories/learning outcomes/etc. I am assuming that the Core Planning Committee will develop complete menus of courses and that the job entrusted to the CC after College-wide approval will be one of ongoing maintenance and revision, with the approved learning outcomes and existing menus as guide and precedent.



Monday, November 11, 2013

A Faculty Initiated Discussion of Core Curriculum Revision!

This forum is devoted to discussion of Core Curriculum Revision at the University of San Diego. It is however of wider interest since the current agenda reflects national and, indeed, global trends.

Core Curriculum revision at USD was initiated by the administration and, though there is a vast array of committees and discussions, controlled by administrators and a minority of faculty recruited to push through the agenda, faculty have had little opportunity for genuinely open discussion.

This is the place for that discussion!  Among the topics we need to consider are:
  • USD's 'business model'
  • Procedural issues and faculty governance
  • Specific recommendations for Core Curriculum requirements and programs
Anyone can comment in response to posts on this blog. And you can comment anonymously. If you would like initiate posts, please email me at and I'll get you on as an author.