GE Task Force Minutes
General Education Task Force
May 14, 2004
Present: Bauer, Beld, Booth, Cisar, Hoekstra, Larson, Umbanhowar, Zempel
1. Summer scheduling and goals. Available meeting dates in the summer include:
- Thursday 6/17
- Wednesday-Friday 7/7 - 7/9
- Tuesday-Friday 7/20 - 7/23
The goal for our summer work is to prepare some options for faculty discussion in the early fall.
The group agreed to meet on Thursday, 6/17, 10.30 - 1.30.
2. Discussion of the Multicultural Studies (MCS-G and MCS-D) requirements.
The group considered the following draft statement of the desired student learning outcomes implied in the current structure of the MCS-G and MCS-D requirements:
- MCS-G: Students gain an understanding of a culture (or cultures) outside the western tradition by focusing on patterned systems of belief regarding one or more significant aspects of a society or societies, in an intercultural way.
- MCS-D: Students gain an understanding of US society by exploring the experience of groups different from the dominant society, through a focus on race, gender, and ethnicity.
The following concerns were raised about the present requirement and its implied learning objectives:
- The current statement is minimalist and confusing. It also reflects the time at which it was written. The focus on, and distinction between, "Western" and "non-Western" is generally regarded as inadequate, but a better set of terms has not yet emerged to replace them.
- Though not specified in the requirement, "Western" is often equated (erroneously) with "modern" and "non-Western" with "non-modern."
- The term "non-Western" inappropriately treats "the West" as the defining culture. "Non-Western" cultures are defined by what they are not, or what they are different from. The terms also ignore the extensive intermingling of both "Western" and "non-Western" elements in most cultures.
- There are an insufficient number of categories of analysis specified in the MCS-D requirement. Might the requirement be broadened to include other cultural divides, e.g. between urban, suburban, and rural cultures, between different economic classes, and even between human and non-human communities?
- Some aspects of MCS-G and MCS-D overlap with other requirements, especially HBS, HWC, and sometimes ALS.
- The implied student learning objectives do not include a dimension which many MCS instructors include in their courses. MCS courses should challenge students' beliefs about their own and others' cultures and their understanding of themselves in relation to other cultures. They should help students develop "perspective by incongruity." (This is not the only requirement where students' beliefs should be challenged and where perspective by incongruity can be achieved, however.)
- "Intercultural understanding" may be a more useful term, rather than focusing on knowledge of one culture. The focus should be on inter-relationships between cultures.
- Is there a distinctive method to multicultural studies, as there often is in the other Core Studies requirements? If there is, at best it is implicit.
Jo Beld, Recorder