Wednesday, February 06, 2013

CRTF and Ikea

A segment on NPR's Morning Edition this morning summarized my thoughts on the ongoing curriculum review perfectly. The "Ikea Effect" refers to the observation "that people attach greater value to things they built than if the very same product was built by someone else" (see the linked-to article).

I think I've been blind to the current CRTF proposal's shortcomings largely because I've been very intimately involved in the process that's led to its crafting. Late last week I "came out" as a non-believer to one of my most trusted colleagues (after having come out here a few days sooner), letting her know that I no longer feel that our proposed curriculum is an improvement on the current one. It's less complicated, but simplicity is not superiority, and it's not even clear that the simplicity will result in gain to faculty (in terms, for instance, of lighter workload or reduced faculty oversight).

It is clear, however, that the simplicity will likely result in loss to students: the proposed curriculum is decidedly less interdisciplinary and intentional. Though I don't believe we should prescribe every student's course exactly, I believe some prescription is important. For instance, I feel strongly that the outcomes of the ILS Intensives be met, no matter the way in which they are met. My ideal curriculum would be one in which every department, without exception, structures its major concentrations in such a manner that every student completing a concentration would automatically take two writing-intensive courses and one information-literacy-intensive course. The proposed curriculum, once we've reinstated the requirement of a second course in a science (quite broadly defined) and once we've reinstated the requirement that every student complete every course in the Humanities sequence, will look little different from the existing one. The only changes will be the removal of intensive requirements, the removal of ILS Topical Clusters, and the removal of LS 379, the transfer colloquia that help students transferring to UNC Asheville adjust to our campus and its functioning. These are all at least somewhat significant losses, in my view.

But, as it is, it looks like we may be heading forward to implementation quite soon. It may very well be that when the documents are drawn up and sent to the Faculty Senate's Academic Policies Committee, that body will shoot them down. (Hope springs eternal...) We'll see, probably sooner rather than later. By me, I'd rather take another year to put something prettier together, something more focused on students' needs than on faculty members' perceptions of efficiency. I'd love to see a curriculum where we look closely at the sacred calf of Humanities (it ain't perfect, people; far from it!) and where we ask all departments to seriously reevaluate their major curricula and not simply say "we ain't budging."

A guy can dream, can't he?

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