University System of Georgia (USG) chief academic officer, Dr. Tristan Denley, recently testified before the state House Committee on Higher Education about his plan to reduce core courses students must take upon enrollment. It includes abolition of the American government requirement—POLS 1101, which incorporates study of the U.S. Constitution and its principles— and it is being greeted with mounting criticism.
One USG government instructor contacted by InsiderAdvantage says: “I’m mainly concerned with the negative impact this is going to have on our college students. Many of my students lack a fundamental grasp of American government and constitutional principles. After taking my class, they at least have a cursory understanding of these issues and their importance to good citizenship. Without this class they would remain as ill-informed as they are when they walk into my class on the first day of the semester.”
This instructor, who wishes to remain anonymous, is backed by a statement ratified by the Political Science Regents’ Advisory Committee:
“The members of the Political Science Regents’ Advisory Committee, on behalf of all political science faculty in public universities in the University System of Georgia, firmly resolve that the goal of encouraging civic participation and awareness is best met by requiring all USG universities and colleges to ensure their graduates earn a passing grade in a core curriculum course that examines and discusses the U.S. and Georgia Constitutions on a continuous basis throughout the semester. The course that offers the most consistent and comprehensive analysis and evaluation of both these Constitutions, as well as the governmental institutions, civil liberties, and participative institutions and avenues for encouraging responsible citizenship in America is POLS 1101, ‘Introduction to American Government.’”
Another USG educator who listened to Denley’s presentation before the lawmakers about downgrading the government/Constitution curriculum submits this report:
“He gave an overview of the proposed Redesigned General Education Curriculum to the committee. Dr. Denley made the argument that the current Core is too rigid and creates transfer problems for students. In his view, the new Core will create “60 seamless transferable hours” and add flexibility for students. …
“The most interesting part of Dr. Denley’s presentation came at the end when lawmakers posed questions to him. Almost all questions were about the changes to American History and American Government. Rep. Clay Pirkle (R-Ashburn), mentioning information sent from one of his constituents, raised significant concerns about the legality of combining American History and American Government into one block and giving students the option to choose one. He specifically mentioned the state law and noted that ignorance about basic matters of American History and American Government are already too common, with a quip about people mixing up John Maynard Keynes and Milton Friedman. Representative Pirkle also argued the process was too rushed. Finally, he didn’t like that the new Core would eliminate the requirement for a lab science and overall noted his opposition to watering down the quality of education in Georgia.
“Rep. Jasmine Clark (D-Lilburn) questioned Dr. Denley next. She seemed to echo some of Pirkle’s worries. However, as an educator herself, she added that the new learning outcomes and compressed credit hour requirements will overburden faculty. In addition, and on a related note, she suggested this in turn will have a negative impact on students. It was really nice to hear a lawmaker describe the problems faculty and students will likely face with the new Core.
“Once the questions ended, the chair of the committee told Dr. Denley that the committee will send him further input before the Board of Regents votes on the proposal. …. Dr. Denley did note in reference to History and Government that the proposal is still in a draft phase and that the credit hour requirements could still be changed, e.g. increased to allow separate blocks for American History and American Government. Of course, whether they will do this or not is still an open question.”
The Denley proposal reduces the number of core credit hours from 42 to 33. Courses in math, science, history and other subjects remain in the curriculum but some worry there will be less time devoted to them. “There is still science, humanities, composition, math, social science, and history, but across the board, less of it,” said Augusta University history department chairman Andrew Goss.
“This plan will not make our graduates more workforce ready, and USG undergraduates will have less preparation, be less well rounded and be less competitive in their careers,” Goss emphasizes.
As this is written, InsiderAdvantage has learned that changes to the Denley proposal may be made and that the governing USG Board of Regents postponed discussing it for now. Denley so far has refused a request to be interviewed by this author.
Phil Kent is the CEO & Publisher of InsiderAdvantage and James magazine.