Warts and all
A former girlfriend once told me I was at once the most cynical and sappy human being she had ever met. She was right. I do tend to swing between these two poles. Nowhere has this been more true than in the core revision work I and some colleagues been doing over the last two and a half years. At times I've been the "hey, kids, let's put on a show" cheerleader, the optimist and liberal arts sunshine peddler. At other times I've been such a pessimist that my colleagues have taken to calling me "Toad" (in reference to the gloomier of the two reptiles in Kenneth Graeme's Wind in the Willows).
I am feeling more and more toadish as the vote for the new core nears. At the heart of our proposal are three interdisciplinary seminars: an expanded first-year seminar, a sophomore/junior level global awareness seminar and a junior/senior level capstone. Our idea was to create three developmentally-appropriate experiences in the core that allowed some interdisciplinary, big-picture reflection for students. We wanted to move away from a checklist core and toward something more pedagogically coherent and--wait for it... here comes the sappy part--transformational in the tradition of liberal arts education at its best.
The seminars are to be taught by faculty from across the institution. And here's the rub that makes calamity of so-long life. Too many faculty members are reluctant to step outside of their current roles. It could be because they don't feel they have the expertise to take on an interdisciplinary seminar, but more often it's just that they have their hands full fulfilling their departmental responsibilities. Some just don't want the extra work, which I can certainly understand. Interdisciplinary collaboration is more work. And, lastly, a few of my colleagues are just fine with the plan so long as somebody else does it.
Today I have to create a survey that polls the faculty's willingness to participate in interdisciplinary programming in the proposed core. Keep in mind we will need dozens of sections per calender year of these new beasts. I already know in my heart that the number who indicate a willingness to be involved will fall woefully short of the participation needed to make the scheme work. The final vote on the proposal is irrelevant because the number that opt in is the only one that matters. Some days I am convinced that this place is a collection of individual and unrelated majors, and a collection of individual and unrelated majors it shall remain.
Croak, croak, croak...