With a review of Curriculum 2000 now underway, administrators said the quantity and nature of area requirements and language transfer issues are among the major topics to be considered.
Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences William Chafe charged a committee to examine all facets of the curriculum and appointed biology professor Steve Nowicki as chair. An overarching theme in the committee's discussions will likely be the long-discussed balance between breadth and depth in the curriculum, but administrators made it clear that the breadth of academic inquiry emphasized by Curriculum 2000 would not be sacrificed.
"We want to basically encourage students to be able to get the in-depth experience they want in their majors without losing the breadth of coverage," Chafe said.
However, the committee will consider the possibility of reducing the number of required Areas of Knowledge from four to three, in response to complaints from students - particularly science double-majors - who find the requirement burdensome.
"The issue is whether the number of courses being asked is too great for those people who are double-majoring in the sciences," Chafe said. "My understanding is they need more than 10 [courses] in order to major [in the sciences]. Ten is a literal requirement, but it becomes difficult to do what they want to do with all of the other requirements."
Another possibility is modifying the Science, Technology and Society Mode of Inquiry, which has also drawn criticism from some students and faculty members in the sciences.
"As it stands, [STS courses are] mostly taught in the humanities and social sciences," said Dean of Trinity College Robert Thompson. "It's not easy for a science major to get an STS course."
In addition to area requirements, Chafe asked the committee to examine whether foreign language courses completed away from Duke should be credited toward core requirements. Currently, courses taken at other schools cannot count toward the foreign language requirement.
Thompson said some people saw this policy as a weakness of Curriculum 2000. "The foreign language issue is, I think, a legitimate concern about, 'Well, how about if I go to Middlebury in the summer, why can't I transfer that Spanish course?'" he said.
Chafe said he thinks the issue will be most critical for the over 50 percent of students who have Spanish as their language of choice.
"That's where the burden is greatest on the teachers, and that's where it's easiest to get credits away from Duke," he said.
Other topics for the committee's review may include mandating that one Research course be in the student's major field and giving and additional half-credit for laboratory courses.
Administrators spent the summer surveying students and faculty and examining data from the first three years of Curriculum 2000. Thompson is in the process of conducting a detailed analysis, which has so far provided no major surprises.
"Nothing startling, nothing with a big red flag, and that's a relief," he said. "So far, I haven't seen anything that's caused me to worry."
The general sentiment expressed by upper-level administrators is that Curriculum 2000 has served the University well, and no major overhaul will come of the curriculum review. Provost Peter Lange praised the curriculum's educational breadth, consistency, emphasis on principles of liberal arts education and varied modes of inquiry as strengths. Thompson added that the greatest success of Curriculum 2000 has been the freshman writing program.
The review committee is expected to present its findings to Chafe around the end of the fall semester. Thompson said any major changes would not likely be implemented until 2005-2006 at the earliest.
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