Degrees with Expiry Dates LO6536
Tue, 9 Apr 1996 09:00:33 -0400

Replying to LO6502 --

In a message dated 96-04-08 22:20:26 EDT, you write:
>Marion Brady comments
>>Each of us has acquired from our society a conceptual model of reality.
>>The most important task of general education is to help us understand
>>that model, the models of those with whom we interact, and the range of
>>alternative models from which we might choose.
>>I think it's interesting/appalling that not a single discipline of
>>those traditionally required for graduation speak to this matter that
>>lies at the very core of human experience and understanding.>
>I agree absolutely but look at it from the model's perspective [OK this is
>MEMES again]. From the model's perspective the most important task of
>general education is that we all get infected by/ believe implicitly/ pay
>adherence to the model. That way it perpetuates itself in the world.
>I agree with you Marion that it is appalling [and interesting]. It helped
>me at least understand the appallingness when I began to see these models
>from their perspective, not mine or those of any other carrier of the
>If Price

I am troubled by these references to general education as "appalling," the
statement that "not a single discipline" addresses or teaches us to
criticize our fundamental assumptions about reality, and the idea that
general education's function is to perpetuate some definable model of
itself. Perhaps I have misunderstood; forgive and correct me if so.

Many educators (in higher ed and especially in English, sociology,
anthropology, and political science) explicitly surface models, teach
students to analyze and evaluate them, and offer new critical perspectives
on taken-for-granted "realities." This is the stated purpose of "general
education" in many higher learning institutions.

I will be the first to admit that these purposes are not often realized.
In many institutions, research productivity receives more respect and
greater financial rewards than innovative or reflective teaching and
curriculum development. In other institutions, dreadful teaching
conditions make it tough for instructors to demand the quality and
quantity of thinking, talking, and writing necessary to develop reflective
abilities and dispositions.

Instructors who make such demands are therefore often in a minority and
must contend with their students' personal and cultural resistance to
change and ambiguity (see another thread, "facts in the data," on dealing
with ambiguity).

Nonetheless, general education can stimulate critical reflection and
serves as an important counterpoint to US society's tendency to
congratulate itself. Its effects reach far into the future, although they
are not irreversible. Someone on a posting I cannot now retrieve
(regretfully!) suggested we need to do less blaming and more supporting of
education. I could not agree more. The health and wealth of our nation
depends on it.


Joanne Gainen, Ph.D.
MTD & Associates


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