Journalist and professor Ted Gup addressed this in his April 11 article in The Chronicle of Higher Education.
“I find it profoundly discouraging to encounter such ignorance of critical issues,” Gup wrote. “I challenge [students’] right to tune out the world, and I question any system or society that can produce such students and call them educated.”
Gup finds it incomprehensible that students who have almost constant access to technology can know so little about current events and world affairs. He is right in this opinion.
As undergraduates, Temple students are required to take several courses in math, science, race and other areas to broaden their educations. There is no current events requirement.
“Gen Ed will hopefully take us in that direction,” said Peter Jones, vice provost of undergraduate studies.
Beginning in fall 2008, core requirements will disappear, and General Education classes will take over. As Jones explained, core classes were targeted more toward students with those specific majors, whereas Gen Ed classes are designed to teach broad ideas.
While Jones feels that “current affairs should be prevalent in every class,” this idea does not guarantee that students will be completely educated about current events. Even if professors encourage discussion of world affairs in their classes, that is not the main focus. Professors need to stick to the topic at hand, which leaves little time for digression.
Jones assures that with the 36 Gen Ed credits students will be required to take, those students who want to learn about current events can choose to take courses in those areas.
“The university has the responsibility to offer students opportunities,” he said.
Students who are genuinely interested in what’s happening in the world will have the option of taking Gen Ed classes relevant to those issues.
But if Gup’s article proves anything, it is that giving students’ options is not enough. Even though students can easily educate themselves about current events through the Internet and have the option of taking world affairs classes, the motivation doesn’t seem to be there. If students aren’t voluntarily learning about these things, it is up to Temple – and all universities – to step in and take the responsibility.
Students should be required to take at least one course focused on current affairs. The class syllabus can be altered every semester to include the latest events, as well as general issues that have affected people over long periods of time.
Jones admitted that it is too early to tell how the Gen Ed curriculum will affect students and that alterations may need to be made over time.
“It is vitally important that students understand current events,” he said. “It’s critical.”