The Faculty Senate closed the book on the Introduction to the Humanities (IHUM) program by voting on March 8 in favor of replacing the program with a one-quarter “Thinking Matters” course, scheduled to launch this coming fall. Although IHUM was a quintessential fixture of the Stanford experience for recent students, it was only the latest edition in Stanford’s history of freshman liberal arts programs, an undergraduate tradition that is nearly 90 years old.
Harvard English professor Louis Menand declared the era of Great Books curriculum “over” at a talk Thursday evening at the Stanford Humanities Center. He added, however, that vestiges of the curriculum still linger, and the effect it has had on the structure of American universities has been profound.
With his tweed jacket and tinted Ray-Ban glasses, Patrick Hunt makes a strong impression. An archaeologist by training, Hunt has traveled to digs around the world to deepen our understanding of the past. Still, his pursuits defy easy categorization — when he’s not excavating or teaching, Hunt keeps busy as a writer, composer, poet and art historian.
Students’ anticipation of the opening of winter quarter enrollment this past weekend undoubtedly prompted some students to express frustration over Stanford’s General Education Requirements (GERs). The non-Structured Liberal Education (SLE) students are required to take three IHUM courses, two PWR classes and classes that cover five Disciplinary Breadth areas (Humanities, Social Sciences, Mathematics, Natural Sciences and Applied Sciences and Engineering) and two of four Education for Citizenship requirements. In practice, this amounts to around eight to 10 courses outside of one’s major (the Foreign Language requirement, not technically a GER, requires up to three additional classes).
My last few columns have been more somber than I’d imagined when I first envisioned “Obsessive Kompulsion.” Originally, the plan was to look at a different one of my many tics each week, leading in with a fun representative anecdote, expanding on the broader implications of said tic and ending with a message along the lines of “yes, I’m ‘special’ (in the sense that I do very weird things), and I like myself because of those ‘special’ things.”
The Study of Undergraduate Education at Stanford (SUES) served as the focal point of Thursday’s Faculty Senate meeting. History professor James Campbell ‘83 Ph.D. ‘89 and biology professor Susan McConnell, who jointly chair SUES, delivered a presentation on the shortcomings of the undergraduate curriculum and general solutions to these shortcomings.
Wednesday night I biked all the way to In-N-Out at one in the morning. It started out as a trip to get Mexican food at a taqueria on S. California Avenue, and then to Happy Donuts on El Camino, once I realized the taqueria was only serving alcohol that late. Well, really it started out as an attempt to escape for a little bit. As I wrote about last week, I was feeling at a rock bottom of sorts; this week I felt more like I was flint scraping along that bottom layer, just barely rising in elevation. I have evolved, or devolved, into an identity crisis of sorts. This is the best I can do to explain it:
When I heard that William Deresiewicz, author of “The Disadvantages of an Elite Education,” was coming to speak at Stanford, I could not have been more excited. The 2008 article, which one of my dorm staff sent to our mailing list early fall quarter, has prompted me to think a lot about what it means to be at Stanford, receiving a “Stanford education” and whether or not I am truly challenging myself to become a serious thinker and productive member of society.