Discussions have begun on a new general education program to replace Ohio State’s 30-year-old requirements.
The proposed program was discussed Thursday by the General Education Review Coordinating Committee during a University Senate meeting, which is made up of student and faculty representatives.
University President Michael Drake called the current general education sections “19th century categories” for a program in the 21st century. Drake also talked about the importance of financial literacy and critical thinking and questioned how the proposed program will be better than the current.
The new program — which is in its final draft — would make all students throughout different majors and studies complete the same general education course requirements, classes designed to provide students with a well-rounded base of education that extend beyond their majors. It could start as early as Autumn 2019.
There are three goals of the proposed program: developing learning abilities, building analytical thoughts and inquiries, and becoming a global citizen. The program is then split into three sections — themes, foundations and bookends, according to documents provided to University Senate.
The first section is similar to the “culture and ideas” sections in current programs within Ohio State, such as general education programs in the Fisher College of Business and the Knowlton School of Architecture.
Theme courses focus around ideas — sustainability and transformative ideas are two of the four main themes — to help students gain theoretical perspective in chosen topics.
The proposal would help students move between majors more easily because the requirements are consistent among colleges, said Randy Smith, vice provost of academic programs.
“Fundamentally, what we are trying to do here is to create … the best sort of educational experience for the students that we can have,” Smith said.
Currently, Ohio State allows each college to have its own set of requirements for its respective students. The current program’s age is one of the main reasons for its update, Catherine Montalto, co-chair of the review committee, said.
“Many of the faculty that are here today was not around when our 30-year-old [general education] program was created,” said Montalto, who is also a faculty member of the department of human sciences. “We’re excited to have voices of our current faculty guiding revision.”
The new proposal does not currently include applicable course listings, but Larry Krissek, co-chair of the review committee and a professor in the School of Earth Sciences, said current sociology courses about food insecurity would apply to this section.
Foundations and bookends — introductory and capstone courses — also mirror many of the current general education requirements. Foundations act as preparation courses, including base-level classes such as English, natural sciences and math, among others.
Fisher and other major programs require a capstone course for the students’ areas of study as a completion to their specified education. But the new proposal suggests creating a capstone course that reflects a general overview of a student’s educational experience, rather than his or specific field or major.
Some members of the University Senate were critical of the changes, some calling it too vague and broad to discuss.
First to be brought up was the removal of a foreign-language requirement.
Jackie Augustine, a professor in evolution, ecology and organismal biology from Ohio State’s Lima campus, questioned why an explicit foreign-language requirement is missing, how foreign-language courses would fit into the proposed model and if other peer institutions include an explicit requirement.
Montalto didn’t directly answer whether the proposed program would have an explicit foreign language requirement, and Krissek said the majority of peer institutions do not require a foreign language in each of their current general education programs.
The College of Arts and Sciences — the largest college at Ohio State — currently requires the majority of its undergraduate students to complete three language courses.
Drake ended his comments with an anecdote about a man cleaning out his medicine cabinet, where half of it was filled with pills that were either outdated or were to treat a condition he didn’t have. Drake connected this story to Ohio State’s changing course requirements and asked not to layer on new skills without getting rid of old techniques, in order to avoid redundancy.
Though none of the changes are official, the final discussions will bring a change to Ohio State’s medicine cabinet of general education requirements.