Core Curricula Conference: Kickoff Panel

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Dave Denby kicked off the core conference yesterday evening, but today there have been- and will be- a series of panels and talks to cover issues ranging from student opinions to the Core’s place in the world. Here’s the first report, from Rachel Lindsay:

At 9 a.m. this morning, before last night’s mixers had been cleared off public windowsills to make way for babies and hired caregivers, Roone Arledge was already abuzz with the spirit of the Core. The crowd rumbled with academic excitement as the mics and podium light dimmed. “Oh technology!” the old academics chortled, wiping powdered sugar from the corners of their mouths. It was the opening of today’s “Core Curricula in the 21st Century: Challenges and Prospects,” and people were unexpectedly cheerful.

This first panel, entitled “The History and Evolution of Core Curricula,” featured Eva Brann, a former dean of St. John’s College (Annapolis); Robert Bird, of University of Chicago’s Slavic Language Department; Douglas Chalmers, a CC teacher from our PoliSci department; Ellen Woods, Assistant Director of the Intro to the Humanities Program at Stanford, and J. Scott Lee, Executive Director of ACTC Liberal Arts Institute at the University of Dallas.

The group exhibited a degree of thoughtfulness about upholding the methodology of the Core, and a sensitivity towards the difficulty of being a student in the modern world–while, of course, still speaking highly of cohesive academic communities that “exude optimism.” But considering how much my friend at Stanford gets stoned, and how many people here hate their CC teachers–or go to class drunk occasionally–I personally hope that this “optimism” becomes practice before inane theory destroys any intellectual vitality that students retain.

Nevertheless, Columbia and Stanford’s representatives did discuss the current state of dissatisfaction with these programs, which they attributed mostly to the disconnect between institutions and their students. But as the University of Dallas’ J. Scott Lee claimed, trends, interviews, and investigation of core texts (which sounded like “cortex”) “prove” the relationship between curriculum, pedagogy, and application to be “determining and authoritative,“ as compared to the “Liberal Arts Education” that has become largely entrenched in tradition.

The conclusion of the panel seemed to share a similar anxiety: that elitism has become canonized, rather than the presentation of truth, integrity, and world vision. We’ve yet to see the day has when something as common and profound as The Simpsons is discussed in our CC class, and I continue to stick to that dynamic and spontaneous wisdom. But perhaps the time of levity represented by The Simpsons is over– and hopefully this conference will provide new answers to how we should cope.



  1. hmm  

    parts of this piece were well-written, while others were muddled and vague. what it really was was overwritten...too many turns of phrase, too little reporting. some substance, please.

  2. Dear Rachel  

    Please explain your half-coherent rant at the end of the session, disguised as a question, that lasted almost 4 minutes, and conveyed nothing of substance or asked a question. You just want people to know you're sad.

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