Trustees | General Education

AU, UA receive B’s on strength of courses

BIRMINGHAM NEWS   |  August 27, 2009 by Stan Diel

Auburn University and the University of Alabama both scored well in a new study that grades schools by the rigor of their required curriculum.

The study by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni gave both schools B’s in its report, released last week. It examined the curriculum at 100 colleges and universities, and awarded just five A’s.

The authors panned some big-name schools for graduating students without making them take core classes in basic subjects.

Yale University was given an F, for example, with the study saying it doesn’t require students to learn basic composition, literature, U.S. history, economics, math or science. Students at Yale can fulfill their science requirement by taking a class called “Chemistry in Popular Novels.”

“The top liberal arts colleges have allowed their general education curricula to deteriorate,” the study said. “These schools are in effect leaving it up to students to figure out what they will need—and families are paying dearly for the privilege of a do-it-yourself education.”

Other cases singled out by the authors:

Northwestern University students can fulfill their math requirement by taking classes in music theory.

Cornell University students can cover their literature requirement by taking “International Film of the 1970s.”

Wesleyan University students can fulfill their science requirement by taking “Physics for Future Presidents.”

Northwestern, Cornell and Wesleyan were among the 25 schools to earn an F.

Not all of the study’s findings were bad. The authors found that flagship state schools still require students to take many of the basics. They singled out the University of Arkansas as an example, saying it has “an exemplary curriculum” and is a bargain for cost-conscious students.

Authors of the study, called “What Will They Learn? A Report on General Education Requirements at 100 of the Nation’s Leading Colleges and Universities,” looked at classes required in seven basic fields of study. No school required a basic education in all seven fields, with economics being the most neglected.


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