Columbia U’s Core Curriculum in Action: An Eyewitness Report

Columbia U’s Core Curriculum in Action: An Eyewitness Report
--What We Saw at Its Get-go and Where We Go from There

Date: 4 November 2008 (Tuesday)
Speakers: Dr. Wong Wing Hung and Dr. Chiu Chu Lee (Office of University General Education)

For New York Times film critic David Denby, Columbia University’s Core Curriculum was such a rewarding experience he took it twice, the second time being thirty years after his graduation. The second attempt turned out even more rewarding and timely; he was riding the waves of confusion that were contemporary living and middle age.

For any college graduate in the US, Columbia U’s Core Curriculum can be a cause for envy because even in this country where “general education” was first conceived and most extensively developed, few universities now go so far as to assign over 43 credits to a core curriculum that is “general education” in its full sense: “education—or common intellectual experience—for all.”

As for the two of us who, inspired by our own experience with General Education at CUHK—as recipients and subsequently as providers—to accept the challenge of setting up the new GE Foundation Course targeting 3,400 freshmen in 2012, a visit to “the other CU” marked a happy point of departure.

For three weeks in early fall this year, we were guests at Columbia U’s Office of the Core Curriculum. We were there to observe the kick-off of the Core program in all its practicalities, attending student orientation and faculty lectures, talking to faculty members and administrators, eavesdropping on training sessions for new teachers, and auditing Core classes on politics, literature, music, art, and science. We are eager to share with you what we saw and learnt, and hear your response to our new reflections on the GEFC program regarding its teaching, staffing, and syllabus design.

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