The role of students in deciding what graduates should know

January 11, 2016

The question of what a college graduate should know has been around for a long time and is not going away any time soon, writes Columbia University Professor Nicholas Lemann for the Chronicle of Higher Education. While the matter of core competencies and job-based skills is a slightly more settled matter in professional schools, it is highly contested  in US colleges with liberal arts programs. Ultimately, Lemann believes that all programs should work toward a suitable balance between “practical” skills and a more “academic” pursuit of complex knowledge for its own sake. Yet one thing administrators must take into account, he writes, is that students enjoy being able to choose their own courses “from a large menu of options.” It is this element of student freedom, and not just faculty resistance, that often prevents colleges from imposing a slate of core courses teaching a limited number of practical skills. Chronicle of Higher Education (Subscription Required)