Jack Stripling, Inside Higher Ed, Feb. 10, 2009.
As budget woes deepen, lawmakers in two states are painting faculty as sex-obsessed liberals and environmentalists who won’t get on the “Drill Baby Drill” bandwagon. The attacks, which have a familiar refrain, signal what may be another surge of debate over areas of study that have long drawn conservative critics.
In Georgia, State Rep. Calvin Hill has questioned whether the state should pay faculty with expertise in “oral sex” and queer theory. In Alaska, State Rep. Anna Fairclough has taken shots at professors who place environmental interests ahead of the very development projects that help fill university coffers.
The culture wars started long ago, but the current economic crisis is provoking new skirmishes. Cary Nelson, president of the American Association of University Professors, said the cycle is predictable and unfortunate.
“What’s sad about it is that each time this happens it’s yet another assault on the principles of academic freedom, and the right of the faculty to shape their own research agendas,” he said.
(AAC&U News, September 2008)
Oklahoma City University Integrates Art Across the Curriculum
Oklahoma City University professor of history Marie Hooper, in her ninth year of teaching multiple sections of World Civilization to 1500, is familiar with challenge of making a survey course engaging. “This course is five thousand years of history in fifteen weeks,” she says. But a few years ago, Hooper found that her students became much more interested in the material when she made one important curricular change: adding art. “Most world civilization texts focus on people and issues and throw in the occasional illustration,” she says. “The students don’t get it, they don’t get the connections. But using art can help students focus on the distinctions, see that all ancient civilizations were not the same. They learn to see art as an artifact of the civilization that produced it.”
Arts across the Curriculum
Hooper’s innovative approach to teaching world history is part of a larger movement. Many colleges have well-developed “writing across the curriculum” models, and more schools are developing similar approaches to teaching quantitative and other skills. At Oklahoma City University, an organized effort is in place to integrate the arts across the curriculum, and especially in general education courses. The university’s Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL) and its Fine Art Institute (FAI), both created in 2005 as part of a $4.6 million grant from the Robert and Ruby Priddy Charitable Trust, are dedicated to fostering appreciation for and engagement with the arts across the university curriculum—not just in arts courses. Through faculty workshops, portfolio training sessions, conference travel grants, and an annual arts curriculum guide, the CETL and FAI support faculty and students in arts-related endeavors…. Read more here.
Do you know about Oberlin’s “Languages across the Curriculum” (LxC) initiative?
Here’s an interesting experiment that has been implemented by Villanova’s undergraduate business program in order to spur innovation and integration in the curriculum. One aspect is to combine specific skills (e.g. communications, technology) so that they can be taught across the curriculum, which can enable students to get at “the big picture,” rather than compartmentalized sections. James Danko, the business dean also attempted to restructure departments to get at the goal of curricular integration. According to an article in “Inside Higher Education” (June 2, 2008: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2008/06/02/villanova), Danko “made ‘trial departments’ called strategic initiative groups. Professors were offered the chance to take a ‘leave of absence’ from their own department to join these groups. Some of these groups have focused on course development while others have focused on research. He said he encouraged the faculty to work in a ‘multidisciplinary way.’ This faculty reorganization became a precursor to the change in curriculum.”
Leaves of absence from departments, anyone?