Discussion on Critical Perspectives – Wednesday, March 15, 3:45 p.m.

LOCATION CHANGE: This event will be in the Collaboratory in Hege Library, NOT in the Gilmer Room.

We will host a discussion during the reserved time on Wednesday, March 15th, at 3:45 pm, centered around the concerns that have been raised recently about the curricular elements we currently house in the Critical Perspectives requirements, namely Social Justice/Environmental Responsibility, Diversity in the U.S., and Intercultural.

NOTE: This meeting is not a called faculty meeting, nor is it even as formal as a forum. We know it’s a very busy time of year with midterm grades due on the 16th, and we realize that this is short notice and that many people have scheduled other events during this time already. We hope that people can come and talk, and that we can make some progress toward resolving these concerns and moving the curricular process forward. If you cannot come, or if you wish to make comments leading up to or following up from the meeting, please feel free to do so here in the comments on this post.

We propose that we have this discussion focus on two questions:

  1. If we were to decide on critical perspectives for 2017, rather than using the ones from 1998, would we retain the same categories and the same names? Are there different concepts, different elements, or different names that we would like to use for the new curriculum?
  2. If we were to combine these to the structure mapped out by the LAGER model, where could we place them? Could we infuse them into the entire curriculum? Could we focus on them in immersive major events rather than courses? Would we replace or modify elements in LAGER 4.0? Would we add something? Would we use a similar method to now, where they are flagged on courses that are part of the rest of the curriculum?

Here is the previous discussion on the page from the March 1 called faculty meeting. It includes some long comments on Critical Perspectives from various faculty members.

March 1 faculty meeting discussion


We have asked LAGER to come with a set of various models for Critical Perspectives that we can compare and discuss, so that we can talk about their merits and drawbacks in relation to each other. We will post these as they become available, but feel free to make additional suggestions here as you wish.

If you’re interested, here’s the text of the items used in the Art and Science requirement (Guilford login required). This isn’t directly relevant to the discussion proposed above, but it is important as we move forward.

The documents prepared by LAGER for this meeting are here.


  1. Richard Schilhavy

    Where is the meeting located?

  2. Recent discussions in faculty meetings and on the Moonrm have pointed to the Foreign Languages department as evidence of the Eurocentric nature of our current curriculum and as justification for keeping Critical Perspectives, especially the Intercultural requirement, in our new curriculum. We recognize that these comments were made in good will and without the intention of blaming our department for the perceived faults of our current or future curriculum. Nevertheless, we feel compelled to respond.

    We, too, would like to see Critical Perspectives more explicitly present in the new curriculum. Moreover, we would like to see a vibrant Intercultural requirement in addition to and separate from a required second semester of language instruction. If we as a corporate faculty truly want our students exposed to a richer, more diverse curriculum, then all departments must take on that call. It is unfair to us and to our students’ education to expect Foreign Languages to be the sole locus of non-Western instruction.

    Moreover, these recent discussions reflect a fundamental misunderstanding and erasure of what we do. Coursework in Spanish, French, and German focuses on diverse areas and cultures well beyond what is imagined as the West. At least half of our Spanish literature and culture courses focus on Latin America; within these courses, we make a point of working (in Spanish translation) with texts and films written partially or entirely in indigenous languages such as Nahuatl and Quechua in order to give the most inclusive picture possible of Latin American cultural life. Likewise, the French program devotes entire courses to the Maghreb and western Africa, and embeds the study of non-European francophone writers and artists from Haiti, Mauritius, Lebanon, and Vietnam (among others) throughout the elementary and intermediate levels of language study. In addition, the German program regularly offers courses with a focus on immigration issues and literature and films from non-Western perspectives. At all times we push students to reflect on the political and cultural stakes at hand when authors choose to express themselves in the colonizer’s tongue. In this way, Foreign Languages inevitably raises students’ critical awareness to the colonial and postcolonial contexts within which they live. We do this pedagogical “de-euro-centrification” within the limits of financial support from our college.

    Friends should recall that we offered Mandarin Chinese for a few years in the late aughts. That program was cut due to a lack of resources and student interest. We continue to push for the (re-) addition of Chinese and Arabic to our offerings. We agree that there is a pressing need to add language diversity that is at once appealing and sustainable to a college of our modest size. We look forward to the opportunity to do so within the framework of a reimagined General Education curriculum.

    Submitted by the following members of the Foreign Languages department: Maria Bobroff, Hiroko Hirakawa, Karen Spira, Dave Limburg, Janet Starmer, Alfonso Abad Mancheño.

    • Thank you so much for this thoughtful and compelling comment. I’m one of the people who has referenced the foreign language department recently, and I posted a correction and apology here: http://moonrm.com/?p=1681

      • I only have time for a brief comment, but want to say that I appreciate the efforts of LAGER to create the four models for including a future version of Critical Perspectives in the new curriculum. I like the fourth model the best, and would like to add a proposed addition, that a touch point for Critical Perspective content is added at the level of Breadth Requirements. So, there would be a fourth touch point there, Students would be required to take one breadth requirement that has Critical Perspective content. As such, by the time they do their signature work in the Last Course, they would have at least three prior courses with Critical Perspective content.

        My assumption here is that a faculty work group will meet to create a contemporary version of Critical Perspectives, and may even rename it!

  3. I echo Sherry on all counts, especially the gratitude for LAGER’s efforts. I prefer Model #4 and would support Sherry’s recommended addition.

    Unfortunately, I won’t be able to attend tomorrow’s discussion as the art department has midterm thesis critiques. I am excited to see what comes of tomorrow’s discussion and conversations around reconfigured and updated critical perspectives as well.