Practicing what you preach
James Q. Wilson spends a lot of his class time talking about problems in implementation. He has studied and lectured about the ability to get things done and get them done as quickly and correctly as possible.
This week he has put some of that knowledge into practice. He urged the Faculty to consider his task force's recommendation to eliminate the foreign language requirement separately from the rest of the committee's proposals.
Wilson knows that if he is to make progress with his explosive seven-area core curriculum proposal, he can't let the Faculty get bogged down on the language question. Faculty members in the language departments stand almost totally opposed to the abolition of the requirement and would hold up discussion for weeks while debating the issue.
It is much easier for him to try to postpone the language brouhaha until after the more ambitious programs are considered.
Neither the language department nor the rest of the Faculty is particularly happy with the current language requirement which allows students to place out by scoring 560 on an achievement test or by getting a D- in one year of elementary language.
Some language professors in particular do not like to teach these courses because of the often unwilling and bored nature of a captive audience.
So a compromise may be in the offing which would modify the current requirement and allow advanced language courses to be offered in the non-western and western culture brackets of the proposed new core curriculum plan.
Wilson may not mind making deals on this particular issue. His task force took up the issue reluctantly and only because the foreign language requirement falls under the core curriculum rubric.
The reason for Wilson's quick decision to urge the separation--his report came out only last month--may lie more in the history of core curriculum reform than in the specific nature of the foreign language battle.
For about four years, from 1962 through 1965, the Faculty debated another report recommending changes in the core curriculum.
That report, named after Paul Doty, Mallinckrodt Professor Biochemistry and the chairman of the committee, recommended that the current Gen Ed curriculum divisions of Humanities, Natural Sciences and Social Sciences be scrapped and divisions in Natural Sciences and Humanities be established in their places.
After months and months of debate, that proposal was killed and the status quo retained. Opponents in the Social Sciences, who felt left out by the plan, waged vigorous opposition to the committee's report and were instrumental in the defeat of its measures.
The model is one that the task force on core curriculum wants to avoid studiously.
Read more in News'Being Upset Might Make Some Sense'