Next to class registration and housing hassles, there are few aspects of the GW experience I believe garner more negative sentiments than the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences’ General Curriculum Requirements. With many of the school’s students pursuing multiple majors and minors with their own strenuous workloads, the additional need to take 42 credits worth of classes only adds to academic stress.
This is not to say that GCRs are worthless; a balanced education is the point of a liberal arts school. But the sheer number of GCRs was clearly problematic and merited a review.
Last year, professors in CCAS voted to slash the school’s monstrous requirements, downsizing the required courseload from 42 to 24 credits. CCAS finally recognized that a year and a half’s worth of GCRs complicate students’ efforts to pursue the classes they find most relevant to their fields of interest.
Last Friday, after nearly a year of research, CCAS passed a GCR proposal that restructured the program as a whole. These changes have their share of flaws, but I believe they will ultimately make the program more useful, not simply a collection of afterthoughts students only take to get out of the way.
First, the revised GCRs keep the best aspects of the program CCAS has administered for the past 20 years. It continues its emphasis on writing by leaving the UW20 and WID requirements intact. While these fields will never be known for their popularity, they are essential elements of a liberal arts education and CCAS is right to include them in the new GCR plan.
But it is the other changes to the GCR program that will benefit students the most in the coming years. For one, the new plan restructures the program’s requirements for mathematics and natural sciences from 15 credits to nine. In so doing, CCAS has preserved the need for these courses while lightening the load for its students, many of whom do not plan on pursuing a career in either area.
In addition to being refreshingly pragmatic, the new GCR plan emphasizes previously slighted fields. The addition of a new oral communications course requirement demonstrates an understanding that there is more to education than exams and papers. Additionally, the analytic course requirements will expose students to cultural perspectives and provide valuable citizenship experience that will certainly come in handy in the globalized workforce we are all about to enter.
Of course, not everything about the new GCR plan is perfect. I find the elimination of foreign language mandates rather misguided and don’t believe the oral communication course will entirely pick up the slack. But these are minor problems which can be amended later on, once the benefits of these new requirements kick in. It is my hope that CCAS administrators will do just that after the new GCR system takes effect in 2011.
Even though they will not apply to anyone currently enrolled in CCAS, we should be grateful that these revisions were made. The new GCR system, while imperfect, will one day provide students with the tools they need and improve the value of a GW education.
The writer, a junior majoring in political communication, is a Hatchet columnist.
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