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By Maleesa Johnson
Of 1,091 colleges surveyed by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, Baylor is among the 22 colleges that received an “A” rating for its core curriculum requirements.
“The university has long been committed to a strong core curriculum,” said Lori Fogleman, assistant vice president for media relations. “These common courses help develop critical thinking, problem solving and writing skills that provide a strong foundation for our students as they advance in their respective academic fields.”
The survey, titled “What Will They Learn” looks at select colleges’ core curriculum and rates them according to the survey’s criteria.
According to the council survey’s official website, a curriculum that does not require the seven key subjects highlighted in the survey fails to satisfy the basic demands of general education.
“We work with a significant network of scholars and teachers around the nation who advise us,” said Dr. Michael Poliakoff, the vice president of policy for the council. “We’re also very sensitive to what we learn from surveys of business leaders and employers concerning what they value and what they want.”
The seven subject requirements used to grade college curricula are composition, literature, foreign language, U.S. government or history, economics, mathematics and science.
The ACTA created this list from a collaboration of statistics and studies done by scholars and teachers.
“We don’t begin to claim that these are the only valuable or important things that people might study,” Poliakoff said. “These represent the absolute foundation that a student needs to have to build upon with further work.”
Poliakoff said he thinks it is important that colleges require a broader course curriculum to benefit the students.
Students do not know where their life could end up outside of college.
Certain jobs may require them to work outside of their field of study.
“The labor statistics tell us that between the ages of 18 and 46, on average a person can expect to change jobs over 11 times,” Poliakoff said. “Quite a number of them will represent a significant change in field. That is just the nature of globalized economy.”
Baylor satisfied six of the seven course requirements in the survey. Economics was the missing subject, as it is not required.
Baylor was the only school in the Big 12 to receive an “A” rating.
“Baylor has really come together as an intellectual community to think about what it means to be a Baylor graduate regardless of major, regardless of career, what it means to be man or woman educated at that university,” Poliakoff said. “Which is not an easy thing to do because typically people want to move to their specialties. To do what Baylor did means departments have to come together to determine priorities for those very precious moments that fly by in your four years.”
Dr. Frank Mathis, associate dean for sciences and associate chair for mathematics, said the curriculum was set up in a way that encourages the process of learning.
“From a student standpoint they may look at a class as a set of facts they need to know,” Mathis said. “But from our standpoint, we’re not necessarily interested in what you know about geology or geophysics. What we want is for our students to have that experience. The skill you do going through that exercise is a lot more worthwhile than a list of facts.”
Similarly, Poliakoff said the survey itself was a learning opportunity for schools.
He said the most gratifying part of the study is when schools receive their rating and strive to do better, not for the purpose of obtaining the grade, but to enrich the students’ experience.
“Our goal in this is not to give a grade as much as it is to encourage the pursuit of excellence” Poliakoff said.