Barnard Town Hall: 9 Ways of Knowing
Written by Bwog Staff
Starting at a few minutes before six, students began to file in. There were name cards to fill out, a buffet to be devoured. Barnard had pulled out all the stops for tonight’s Town Hall: note the pristine white table clothes.
According to Kate McNamara VP of Communications for the SGA, tonight’s Town Hall was a response to fall’s Town Hall, which unfortunately (or fortunately?) occurred when hate crime season was in full bloom. Students had expressed concerns about the hate-filled, crime-ridden environment that was fall 2007, and Barnard felt that “maybe what needs to change is what happens in our classroom,” according to McNamara.
The official presentation began with Dean Denberg, the Dean of Barnard College. With trusty PowerPoint at her side, Denberg provided background information about BC’s general education requirements. There are nine total GERs, and they are called, fittingly enough, The Nine Ways of Knowing. Implemented in 2000, each has broad-ish objectives (“Literature”, “Historical Studies”, etc.).
But the single most troubling requirement, (from its inception and up to and including today), is that of Cultures in Comparison. Initially, the Committee on Instruction (the panel of 4 students and 6 administrators that’s comparable to the Core Review), decided that this category should be one unto itself and should specifically focus on something not contained in the other requirements: explicit comparison of two or more cultures and societies. Establishing the boundaries of cultures, and when students are in fact, comparing them suitably, proved harder than expected.
“It’s impossible to have a requirement that talked about the Other,” said Denberg cryptically.
Denberg then presented the findings of GER focus groups comprised of second-semester seniors. There were summaries of the findings regarding all the requirements—for Quantitative Reasoning: “There were a few comments, but many recommendations to take statistics.”
And finally, the denouement of sorts: COI (which was partially influenced by the findings of the focus group sessions) recommends that: “Race, ethnicity and socio-economic status should be integrated into the curriculum, similar to gender.
The College is requesting funds for a wider assessment to flesh out both student and faculty perspectives on including more critical analysis of these things.”
Will be interesting to see how newly-appointed D.Spar conducts the “wider assessment.” Bwog has a suggestion, if you will: Focus groups consisting solely of anxious, ennui-filled, dissonant second-semester seniors might not make for the most representative results. Poll a sampling of students from all years, especially sophomores and second semester first-years regarding the First Year Seminar and First Year English requirements.