Widgets Magazine


Editorial: Sustainability should be added to Citizenship GER options

Whatever feelings some students might have toward IHUM or the University’s General Education Requirements (GER), nobody can accuse the University of ignoring student input on academics. From mid- and end-quarter course evaluations to the recently-convened Study of Undergraduate Education at Stanford (SUES), the administration has consistently demonstrated a dynamic responsiveness to incorporating student suggestions into the curriculum. Most recently, the University has taken into consideration a proposal submitted by Students for a Sustainable Stanford (SSS) to add a sustainability option to the Education for Citizenship requirement.

The Editorial Board applauds SSS for coordinating this effort and urges the University to follow through with this addition. While the Editorial Board has commented extensively on the importance of sustainability in the past, the Board also supports this proposal because of the purposeful precision with which it was created.

Firstly, the decision to include sustainability as an optional method of fulfilling the Citizenship requirement is much less intrusive than establishing a required component of the GER solely for sustainability–students who would rather not enroll in a course on sustainability are free to choose from the other options available to fulfill the Citizenship requirement. As one of five options in the Citizenship category, the addition of sustainability to the list would be a boon for students interested in the field, while the rest of the student body would be under no obligation to choose sustainability over any of the other options.

The authors of the proposal explicitly address related concerns, stating, “We seek to build an intellectual tool, rather than a behavioral or ideological prescription; this is not an environmental literacy requirement.” The proposal goes on to aptly frame this “tool” as a conception of inter-temporal aspects of citizenship–a counterpart to the international and interpersonal perspectives of the global community or gender options.

Given this objective, the submitted list of sample courses fit nicely. Rather than solely focusing on technical aspects of environmental science or clean technologies, most of the classes center more on integrating a wide range of global and generational consequences. At a very basic level, the inclusion of these classes just makes sense. If a course on “The Ethics of Environmental Choices” does not contribute to good citizenship in this day and age, then what does?

Including these types of classes as GERs will legitimize their value while increasing incentive to enroll. Many students with a passing interest in sustainability would benefit from taking a sustainability course, but cannot spare the units for a course unrelated to their major or other requirements. Increasing access to these classes might be the most important thing environmentally-interested students can accomplish. The Earth systems majors that graduate from Stanford will work to make a sustainable impact through their careers in business and government. But if the public policy majors, the engineers, doctors, lawyers and businesspeople can incorporate these concerns into their mindsets, then the reach of these classes will extend much further.

Combating climate change, resource shortages and the global equity challenges of the 21st century will require an environmentally knowledgeable citizenry, not just a minority of dedicated specialists. We hope that Stanford continues to do everything in its power to make that need a reality, starting with the addition of sustainability to the Education for Citizenship requirements.

About Editorial Board

Editorials represent the views of The Stanford Daily, an independent newspaper serving Stanford and the surrounding community. The Daily's Editorial Board consists of President and Editor-in-Chief Victor Xu '17, Executive Editor Will Ferrer '18, Managing Editor of Opinions Michael Gioia '17, Desk Editor of Opinions Jimmy Stephens '17, Senior Staff Writer Kylie Jue '17, Senior Staff Writer Olivia Hummer '17 and Senior Staff Writer Andrew Vogeley '17. To contact the Editorial Board chair, submit an op-ed (limited to 700 words) or submit a letter to the editor (limited to 500 words) at eic@stanforddaily.com.