By Gerson Moreno-Riano, October 22, 2009 in Pedagogy and Teaching
Evaluating and revising a general education curriculum is much like a journey through the Land of Mordor on the way to Mount Doom. Few are one’s allies, many are one’s enemies, perils abound and there is darkness everywhere. I may perhaps write about allies and enemies alike at some other time. For now, I want to write about some of the perils and darkness that pervade the terrain.
I cannot claim to be a student of higher education or a vociferous reader of the higher education research literature. But in my modest investigation of both of the latter, I have continually come across a Mordorean pitfall: the priority of process-based general education over content-based general education.
Process-based education focuses on helping students understand a process and method of inquiry. Its goal is the cultivation of a personal developmental journey of self-discovery. It is highly therapeutic and nurturing.
Content-based education provides students with cognitive, rational, and intellectual objects of consideration. It is premised on the existence of truth, objectivity, facts, right and wrong. It is confrontational, transformational and, to some degree, salvific.
The lack of content in process-based education is only superficial. Process-based education enshrines a self-discovery methodology for content thus leaving students completely rudderless. And, in a sickening fashion, this rudderlessness is touted as liberating and morally fulfilling.
The all too powerful ring of process-based education must be destroyed. And the only way to do this is through the fires of committee work, debate, discussion, and approval. It takes a Frodo-like spirit and determination to destroy the ring of process-based education at any one institution. But its destruction and supplanting with a truly liberal arts education is worth all the dangers of the journey.