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I've heard a different statistic, that the fraction of Amherst students who graduate without a math or science course is substantial. But I don't have any concrete data.
The Open Curriculum: At Amherst the general education expectation (Catalogue, p.69) is indeed coherent and substantive. It embodies the institution‟s definition of an educated person and prepares students for the world in which they will live (NEASC 4.15). That expectation often unfamiliar to faculty advisors and students has been complicated by new concerns over writing and quantitative and informational skills and needs rethinking and reformulation by CEP and the Faculty. A central challenge noted in the 1998 review and in the 2008 Self-Study remains translation of the expectations into patterns of student course-taking and learning in the context of an open curriculum to which the faculty is fiercely committed.
Transcript review for classes of 2002-06 suggests that there has been little or no progress toward greater breadth of course-taking by Amherst students since 1995-96. Whereas, 63% of students a decade ago took math or computer science courses, only 56% did in 2002-06; the same pattern holds for lab science courses (60% vs. 44%) and creative arts (<50% vs. 42%). Even the percentages taking three or more courses in the humanities (99% vs. 88%) and social sciences (90% vs. 87%) declined. These patterns continue to be inconsistent with Amherst‟s clear aspirations for breadth articulated in the Catalogue.
This issue was a central point of research and discussion in the extensive and impressive Report of the Special Committee on the Amherst Education in 2003. In addition, that report also emphasized the fundamental competencies of writing and quantitative analysis and both the challenge and importance of finding ways to assist students to undertake broad educations and build those skills in the context of that open curriculum. The CEP currently is examining ways of establishing a clearer accounting of student progress toward achieving curricular breadth and anticipates a rethinking of the broader aspirations for a liberal education that have long been inscribed in the Catalogue.
A comprehensive review of pre-major advising appears also to be on the CEP agenda. Advising for first- and second-year students continues to be widely viewed as not fully successful in encouraging students to explore the curriculum as widely as the College hopes they will. We highlight the importance of moving forward in conjunction with review of expectations for general education.
I agree -- and I also think that schools with such a curriculum, like Amherst, should be candid about those effects.
How long has Amherst had open curriculum?
When only 44% of graduates take a lab science course, a college really needs to stop saying that they believe in "breadth" in the academic program.
Under the curriculum, most members of the Faculty serve as academic advisors
to students. Every student has a College Advisor until he or she declares a
major, no later than the end of the sophomore year; thereafter each student will
have a Major Advisor from the student’s fi eld of concentration. As student and
advisor together plan a student’s program, they should discuss whether the
student has selected courses that:
• provide knowledge of culture and a language other than one’s own and of
human experience in a period before one’s lifetime;
• analyze one’s own polity, economic order, and culture;
• employ abstract reasoning;
• work within the scientifi c method;
• engage in creative action—doing, making and performing;
• interpret, evaluate, and explore the life of the imagination.
THE MAJOR REQUIREMENT
Liberal education seeks to develop the student’s awareness and understanding
of the individual and of the world’s physical and social environments. If
one essential object in the design of education at Amherst is breadth of understanding,
another purpose, equally important, is mastery of one or more
areas of knowledge in depth.
Clearly, Grinnell has not be "branded" with its open curriculum the way Amherst has. It's the only game in town for an elite LAC in that part of country (MN and OH are something else) so obviously many science based kids are attending Grinnell as well.