Stanford University

News Service


NEWS RELEASE

11/20/96

CONTACT: Diane Manuel, News Service (415) 725-1945;
e-mail diane@news-service.stanford.edu

COMMENT: Robert Polhemus, Department of English (415) 723-2723
Paul Seaver, Department of History (415) 723-4466


Interim report on revised CIV program goes to Faculty Senate

STANFORD -- A "one plus two" structure and a new name for a revised Cultures, Ideas and Values program is suggested in a five-page interim report by the CIV Review and Design Committee that goes to the Faculty Senate tomorrow.

The "one" refers to a "large-enrollment" autumn quarter course, possibly called "Introduction to the Humanities," that would be taught from the perspective of three different disciplines. It would be followed by "two" quarters ­ winter and spring ­ of smaller-enrollment courses structured like the current CIV tracks, or centered on themes.

"There seems to be quite a bit of sentiment now for a 'one plus two' structure in the [review] committee," Robert Polhemus, professor of English and chair of the committee, said. "We have not decided anything yet, but that is what we're talking about."

The CIV review committee was established under a resolution passed by the Faculty Senate in March 1995. Members were appointed by the dean of Humanities and Sciences in consultation with the provost, and the committee began meeting in October 1995. The panel is expected to make final recommendations for a redesigned program during winter quarter.

Questions center on what shape the new program will take. With an estimated 1,600 incoming freshmen, faculty members who remember the challenges of large lecture classes in the former Western Civilization program express concern about the potential size of the proposed three-track, autumn quarter lecture course.

"I think it's a terrible idea," said Paul Seaver, professor of history and director of the CIV program.

"It would put freshmen right away into Kresge Auditorium and Mem Aud in groups of 500," Seaver said. "I've said to Rob [Polhemus], 'Is this the first thing we want to do in giving freshmen a personalized education?'"

Polhemus said the committee faced three choices when it began meeting a year ago: "Leave it as it is, change it, or get rid of the requirement altogether."

"When you put it that way, then 'one plus two' looks pretty good," Polhemus said.

"We are trying to make the change from [a track that is taught in] three lectures and one discussion section to [a course taught in] more discussion sections and fewer lectures," he said. "That is the general principle."

Polhemus speculated that the large-enrollment autumn class that is suggested in the interim report might be taught from three perspectives ­ instead of the 10 tracks that currently are offered in CIV.

"The idea is, let's look at some texts from the point of view of, roughly, history, literature or the arts, and conceptual thought, philosophy or belief systems," he said. "But would we organize these by three tracks which would be loosely art, history and thought? Or do we try to have these three approaches in one course?

"Those are the sorts of things that are up in the air."

Review committee member John Bender, professor of English, said he supports a three-discipline approach.

"I would favor something like a course about 'What is the past?' a course about 'What is thought?' and a course about 'What is imagination or creativity?'

"If you say history, philosophy and literature, then everyone thinks it would just be [taught] in those departments, and I don't think that's what the committee intends."

The "one plus two" structure suggests that "the fall [course] would be a really broad introduction to the humanities, conceptually and problematically," Bender said. The two-quarter tracks in the winter and spring "would be more particular as to theme or discipline or historical coverage," he said.

But Seaver said the review committee apparently has not considered how his redesigned program would be organized or taught, based on conversations with committee members.

"There seem to be huge practical problems," he said. "For example, do we ask German studies discussion leaders to teach in the literature track in autumn quarter, and then teach in the German studies track in winter and spring? What about anthropology people? Where would we put them?"

The review committee is issuing the interim report after a year spent studying the existing CIV legislation and the history of the program, reviewing syllabi of current courses, looking at similar programs at peer institutions, and talking with faculty and students about the "successes and shortcomings" of the program.

Ronald Rebholz, professor of English and director of the Writing and Critical Thinking program, was invited to a meeting of the CIV review committee on Nov. 18, to talk with committee members about the possible integration of the writing requirement with the Area One requirement.

"I think they're beginning to make up their minds about some things, but are still at a preliminary stage in the discussion of a possible link of the writing requirement with the Area One requirement," Rebholz said.

"I went to the meeting with real concerns about that link and about how they intend to staff writing courses. And I came away with all my concerns still intact. I did not hear any model suggested that would guarantee, to my satisfaction, that a link between Area One and the writing requirement would achieve the kind of excellence of teaching that we currently achieve in Writing and Critical Thinking."

Rebholz said that he had several objections to the proposed "one plus two" model.

"The second quarters, winter and spring, wouldn't give anybody an opportunity to achieve what CIV has achieved in the best tracks, which is some kind of relatively comprehensive, chronological study of some Western and some non-Western cultures and the meaning of culture," he said. "I think the 'one plus two' model would, in effect, destroy all the CIV tracks that are striving for that objective. I wouldn't want to be involved in it.

"I brought that up with John Bender, who said that perhaps people would give lectures twice so there would be no more than 250 students in each lecture," Rebholz said. "But once you get over 100, you might as well be lecturing to 1,000. It's a disaster."

Three-quarter requirement

The report notes that earlier discussions about "ways of making Area One harmonize with the promising new emphasis on Introductory Studies, featuring such challenging ideas as a proposed Freshman Seminars program for all students" gave rise to "unfortunate rumors" that CIV was being cut and lecturers would be eliminated.

It goes on to say that "the committee supports as of now a three-quarter requirement (which probably precludes any linkage with Frosh Seminars) and an emphasis on highly qualified lecturers to teach in the course."

The interim report does not make clear what would happen to the 37 postdoctoral lecturers who teach more than 90 discussion sections in the current CIV program. Nor are expectations spelled out for the 20 regular faculty members who serve as track chairs and lecturers.

The report says that there is an "imperative" need to "pay attention to the success, the service and quality of the post-doctoral lecturers who have taught so well in Area One, to utilize the talents of such people in the future, and to lift, not lower, the morale of the staff and the dedicated, distinguished regular faculty" who teach in the CIV program.

"The idea is not to get rid of lecturers, but to have nationwide searches for such people, and to make sure that it's a three-year appointment," Polhemus said.

According to the interim report, in April and May of 1996 the review committee agreed that course sequences should "focus instruction on intensive reading and study of important, primary texts." The revised course sequences "must be structured around defined themes and critical questions," the report says, and "must, in the main, be organized chronologically."

"We're just saying that it should be focused on texts, not which texts," Polhemus said. "We're not trying to go back to a prescribed reading list or a canon. The faculty would have to choose the texts; it would have to work that way."

Bender said that committee members spent most of the first year trying to design "simpler legislation" for a revised program.

"We're trying to craft simpler legislation, but not in any way to abandon the goals that were embodied in the earlier legislation with regard to diversity of culture, gender and so forth," he said. "It would be totally wrong to represent this as an attempt to somehow go back to Western Culture. There's no one who wants to do that."

-Diane Manuel-

961120civprogram.html


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