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Martin Center Column Highlights Worthwhile Curriculum

Grattan Brown writes for the Martin Center about a curriculum worth following.

At the start of students’ college careers, there are both good and bad unknowns. The good unknowns are the people they will meet, the different instructors, courses on subjects they have heard about but never studied, and experiences that expand their perspectives.

The bad unknowns include the problem that they do not know is brewing, the difficult relationship and killer assignment that is bound to come, how much their books will cost, how difficult it will be to pay tuition, room, and board, and whether they will have everything they need.

How their school’s curriculum works should not be one of those unknowns.

However, first year students sometimes arrive on campus and discover that their courses and schedules are not what they wanted. Someone made a schedule for them, and they ended up with courses they would not choose and the dreaded 8:00 am class. The student who wants to solve the problem by changing courses faces the question: What courses?

Ask that question, and you enter the maze that is an undergraduate curriculum today. It takes serious thought to get through it, and by the time you are done, you will have spent hours figuring out which courses to take and which to avoid.

Here’s how the system works and how Thales College, a new college in Raleigh, North Carolina, makes it work better for students. Thales College combines liberal arts and professional undergraduate curricula so that students develop the intellectual ability, meaningful knowledge, moral character, and professional excellence needed to thrive in life and work. The college’s organized course of study stands in sharp contrast to the mix of courses most colleges offer today.

When a student arrives on a typical college campus, they must plan to complete the college’s or university’s core curriculum or general education requirements. However these requirements are arranged, they represent that institution’s view of what an educated person should know. In a liberal arts college, they represent what the institution considers to be a liberal arts education. In most US institutions today, these curricula come in the form of survey courses that lack depth and elective courses that lack coherence.

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...