Emerging, A Blog

Barclay BarriosBarclay Barrios is an Associate Professor of English and Director of Writing Programs at Florida Atlantic University, where he teaches freshman composition and graduate courses in composition methodology and theory, rhetorics of the world wide web, and composing digital identities. He was Director of Instructional Technology at Rutgers University and currently serves on the board of Pedagogy. Barrios is a frequent presenter at professional conferences, and the author of Emerging.

Restructuring Ge Ed: Uniform?

posted: 11.21.12 by Barclay Barrios

In my last post I considered the implications of an institutional economy that privileged speedy graduation.  In this one, I’d like to consider the implications of the legislated categories for the statewide Gen Ed core: Communication, Mathematics, Natural Science, Social Science, and Humanities.

Perhaps like me you rankle at their reductiveness. In an age where inter- and multi-disciplinarity is increasingly the trend in both theory and practice, the five mandated “buckets” (as I have termed them) feel downright reactionary.  Apparently, the categories reflect in part the demands of our accrediting body, SACS. Actually, the categories mandated by SACS are humanities/fine arts, social/behavioral sciences, and natural science/mathematics. Curiously, there is no mention of writing instruction specifically anywhere in SACS guidelines. Presumably, it is considered part of the “humanities,” though the social science leanings of our discipline offer some complications.

Our state categories are a curious reflection of what SACS requires.  The humanities are included, fine arts are not.  Natural sciences and Mathematics are divorced.  Behavioral science is, presumably, part of social science.  I suppose the addition of Communication is a boon and a hopeful sign that as a state we value the ability of students to communicate. I will say that some of the other committees opened the day discussing who should be where: is history a social science or part of the humanities? Even buckets so reductive have leaky boundaries, it would seem, and the implications of who goes where have ramifications for departments across all institutions in Florida.  Who will gain?  Who will lose?

As a bucket, Communication is darned leaky too.  Our committee included people in English and Communcations and Composition/Rhetoric.  We all agreed that communication happens both in writing and in speech but also visually, multimodally, technologically. The fetishism of five (a maximum of five courses in five categories) did not mesh at all with who we are and what we do.

In the end our committee selected a single course, a writing course (ENC 1101, our first semester writing course) and yet we also felt compelled to add a statement on the varieties of communication, in the hopes that local institutions (where buckets are not so neat) might find ways to more fully represent communication and thus might also find ways to prepare students more fully for the world that awaits them.

Five buckets–four for accreditation, one in recognition of a fundamental need, all permeable. Five buckets–too few, too limiting, too reductionist. Five buckets–one now filled with a singe course, a writing course.

Victory? Perhaps. 15 credits of the core remain for each school to decide.  As a colleague commented, “Now the local bloodbaths will begin.”  Indeed.

So, what are your buckets?  What fills them?  And, again, where does writing sit in your school?


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