"Kudos to UB for revamping gen ed, but, please cut the jargon"


Sixty-eight percent of students surveyed called UB’s current general education curriculum something “to get out of the way.” Seventy-two percent of students said UB exempts or waives them from some or all foreign language requirements.

It doesn’t take a math major to see that the gen ed system at UB is broken. That’s why we students are glad to hear about the proposed overhaul of the gen ed curriculum. It’s about time UB let some air into this stuffy, outmoded system.

We commend UB for tackling this.

The proposal – which is still just a draft – is a huge improvement over the current requirements, which are impractical and despised by most students.

The proposal is not perfect, as its creators seem to know. In fact, they spent the week listening to faculty and student critique the proposal.

Still, some pieces stand out immediately as dramatic improvements and a testament to the relevancy of many proposed classes.

The elimination of the dreaded – and required – World Civilizations is a fantastic idea. Forty-nine percent of students surveyed said World Civ was useless – a clear indication that an overhaul is needed. The new offerings give students a more diverse and relevant pool of courses to choose among.

A math and reasoning class that focuses on real-world applications – such as personal finance – is a similarly wise move. Students could actually learn and apply new information. Rather than repeating a curriculum they studied in high school, students could apply what they learn outside the classroom.

Real-world applicability is a common theme among the proposed changes. It’s a laudable goal and students worried about jobs after graduation will certainly benefit.

Still, we worry about the writing curriculum. The proposal replaces the Writing Skills requirement with the more vague Communication Literacy category. We worry this will water down the requirement and allow students to replace courses requiring writing with those that focus on oral presentations and visual communication.

The worst part of the proposal, however, is the language itself. It worries us that some of the authors of the proposal teach writing. The language is so packed with academic jargon it’s practically incomprehensible. Courses are to be grouped into “integrative clusters,” which sound intriguing, but remain obscure. And how can students possibly fulfill the university’s “aim of inculcating and reinforcing ‘folio thinking,’” when no one has a clue what “folio thinking” means?

One of the things that elevates this curriculum over the old one is its more student-oriented approach. Why not, then write the curriculum so students can understand it? Currently, the language of the proposal is an impediment to its effectiveness.

Fortunately, a good editor can remedy this and the other problematic elements of the proposal are minimal. The fundamentals of the program are solid and the suggested implementation seems reasonable.

We applaud UB for prioritizing student needs and for insisting on the importance of general education requirements. Incoming freshmen should explore subject areas beyond their intended major and feel out of their depth and immersed in new ideas and varied perspectives.

The current general education curriculum only does this haltingly. Far too many students are unhappy and consider it a waste.

Hopefully, this new system will begin to change that.

Who knows? Perhaps after 2016, students will actually look forward to general education classes rather than dreading them.

email: editorial@ubspectrum.com