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McGoldrick '12: Yes, Brown should have required classes

Brown's New Curriculum - poorly named since it is nearly half a century old - is a point of pride for many Brunonians, and rightfully so: It's a manifesto for creativity, self-definition and personal motivation. These are certainly noble values we should embrace. But a large portion of people at Brown tend to define the New Curriculum by a single feature - no required classes. While this is a crucial element of the original vision, it would be foolish to dogmatically insist that we should never consider amending Brown's educational structure. That would be antithetical to the liberal arts philosophy.

In fact, I believe the values that originally motivated the New Curriculum would be bolstered if we did have a few - two to three - required courses. I have two classes in mind that I will mention, but these are merely suggestions, and I invite others to further develop what courses and content might be required.

The motivation for my classes stems from a worry similar to the one expressed in Lucas Husted's column ("Individualism at Brown," March 7). Like Husted, I too am concerned that Brown's emphasis on individualism can alienate students from one another. Brown is committed to becoming a global university, and I'm concerned that individualism does not adequately meet the needs of an increasingly connected world. I am, to an extent, in favor of the individualism espoused by the New Curriculum, but I believe that some communal ground that required courses provide is beneficial if we are to become global citizens.

The first required course I suggest would be an interdisciplinary survey course that examines history, historical construction and sociology with an aim to create appreciation for both qualitative and quantitative inquiry. This course would be designed to give students some perspective on current and historical events, as well as situate the United States in a larger context. If Brown strives to be a global university, every recipient of a Brown degree should be required to critically think about what it means to be a global citizen in today's complex and interconnected world.

My second required class would be a crash course on Brown itself. The objective of this course would be to familiarize students with the history, philosophy and resources of the University. It would also aim to foster more inter-student awareness and connection via conversations about gender, drug use, community life and so on.

Together, these courses would help orient students within their macro- and micro-environments, better preparing them to be global citizens. While I do think it is important to retain a high level of freedom, we should ensure that no student fails to recognize that all individual decisions and actions take place within and have effects on a larger community.

 

Rebecca McGoldrick '12 can be reached at

rebecca_mcgoldrick@brown.edu.


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