Changing the Curriculum & Course Offerings on Your Campus

Changing University Courses and Curriculum Now that you're at college and the initial excitement has worn off, maybe you're thinking that the course selection is a bit biased and you'd like some options.

So how do you (the consumer) get the college (the business) to change up its offerings? It certainly won't be easy. Nevertheless it's something that should be done--particularly since you're footing the bill.

A good, education in a free society requires the exploration of ideas, weighing both sides of issues, and even learning to challenge authority by asking difficult questions. Many college and university classes completely fail in this regard. Those who teach these classes will protest, but the truth is obvious to all who are willing to look with open eyes.

Can you help bring real intellectual diversity to the classroom? For that matter, how can you possibly know what you should learn if you haven't yet learned it?

To start, take a look at the course offerings from Hillsdale College and Grove City College. Why these two colleges in particular? Because those are the only two colleges in the United States that do not accept federal money. In other words, they are the only independent colleges in the country. And as a result they have continued the tradition of educating students to be free men and women.

Two good groups to reach out to are the National Association of Scholars and the Pope Center for Higher Education Reform. They are non-profit organizations devoted to reforming higher education in America.

The Leadership Institue (LI) is also helping students in this endeavor with their Conservativism 101 effort, which aims to bring classes on conservative philosophy to various campuses around the country. LI claims successes on campuses such as American University, Brown University, and University of Virginia. Learn more here about how LI will support you in the endeavor. 

Now that you have an idea about the types of courses you'd like to see your college or university offer, it's time to get the lay of the land and to network.

  1. Set specific and realistic goals. Do you want to see a class on say "The Founder's Views on Liberty" added to the History offerings? Do you want to see a series of classes? If so, be specific. Also, don't expect to be able to reform an entire major or discipline from the get-go. That's not going to happen. It's best to work around the edges by introducing a few classes.
  2. Meet with the appropriate school officials. Don't come into the meeting loaded for bear. Be friendly and polite. Find out what it would take to get your specific goal and what the time frame would be for new classes to be added.
  3. How that meeting goes will dictate your next moves.
  4. If the school works with you, great. But be careful; they may act like they're working with you, but really just dragging their feet. Ask for them to set deadlines and keep on the process. If the process fails, go to step five.
  5. Before you go any further, you're going to need to make a commitment to this cause. You probably will have to commit to something that may take multiple semesters to accomplish. Understand that you may want to get activist training from the Leadership Institute. Don't forget to contact Intellectual Takeout, too. 
  6. Reach out to the conservative/libertarian/freedom-loving students on your campus. You'll know the local terrain best, but it's critical to have many voices. Let them know what your specific goals are and how you would like to work together to accomplish them. Additionally, because changing up course offerings does take time, it's good to have a group behind the push for change because that will provide for continuity in the efforts. 
  7. Begin to market your idea. Write letters to the school paper, distribute flyers, put up posters, etc.
  8. Once you have a solid network of students that want to see change, do an on-campus petition. Build your numbers.
  9. Take the petition to your school's administration. Show them that you're not the only one who would like to have more intellectual diversity on campus.
  10. If the school begins to work with you, good job! If the school refuses to work with you and you want to continue attending the school, go to step eleven.
  11. Have students contact their parents. Parents are often the one's paying for college educations. Show them the type of courses you would like the school to offer. No doubt, they'll support your effort. It's not like you're asking for money to host a kegger.
  12. Once you prove that you can build a movement for change on campus and have parent support, approach the school administration again. If they're still not willing to work with you, it's time to consider ramping up your efforts.
  13. A good first step to ramping up your efforts would be to reach out to off-campus, local conservative and libertarian think tanks and organizations. The State Policy Network is a good place to look for contacts. You might also want to consider reaching out to local tea party groups since many have an existing grassroots network. And, of course, let Intellectual Takeout know what's going on.
  14. Publicize your effort in the community. Again, seek out training to do all of this at the Leadership Institute. Contact local business leaders, the school's alumni, and tax payers if you are at a state school (their money often subsidizes some portion of the schools activities). Particularly for state schools, contact elected officials. Contact the local news sources and chambers of commerce. Also, let the national organizations and talking heads know about your effort. Put videos up on YouTube. National attention will help.
  15. Take the petition signed by students and start to get the same thing going around the local community or state. 

Your goal is to leverage the alumni community and the surrounding community (and even the national community) to get change going. Many, many people out there are displeased by what colleges and universities are calling "education" these days. You have many allies; you just need to organize them and focus their energy.

In everything you do, be respectful and polite, but don't back down. Don't be intimidated. You are paying for an education that is likely skewing your worldview to the left simply by exposing you mainly to those ideas. Why pay for that? Take back your future by demanding more.

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Commentary or Blog Post

"I asked Fulton County high school teacher Jordan Kohanim to write a piece about what she wanted for her students this year. Jordan joined forces with fellow Centennial High School English teachers Larken McCord and Cathy Rumfelt to write a powerful letter about their goals for their students and for all students. School resumes in Fulton County on Monday

Here is their combined effort....

Flanagan, seemingly a supporter of John Dewey's education philosophy and changes, portrays how Dewey went beyond the changes made by Horace Mann. Discussing his "laboratory school," which Dewey established in 1896, Flanagan argues that he created a school equally focused on both the student's individual pursuits and the preparation of each student to live in the community - both the...

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As one could guess given the name of the institute, this article urges that education on both sides of the Atlantic become more efficient and productive by enabling each participant significant choice on the matter. Lawson contends that this idea is far from where the British...

Describing the transition and evolution of education during the first several decades of the 20th century, Wiles characterizes the change as moving from a "closed" to an "open" system.  Throughout the rise of progressive thinking, Wiles argues, "no person epitomizes the acknowledgement of...

This brief introduction to Dewey's ideas asserts that the "most common misunderstanding about Dewey is that he was simply supporting progressive education. Progressive education, according to Dewey, was a wild swing in the philosophical pendulum, against traditional education methods.In progressive education, freedom was the rule, with students being...

Examining the causes of declining educational performance, Bernstein points to John Dewey's education philosophy as the cause. "[Progressive education's] main tenets have been widely incorporated into American schools. Our educators accept the premise that the target of education is not the student's rational mind. Since they believe that their goal is not to...

Prominent free-market economist and historian, Murray Rothbard, wrote an extensive 12-part analysis on the modern education system (including this piece, the last in the series).  He described the destructive trend of progressive education as being collectivistic, controlling and uniformitarian. And, in some...

In light of recent school violence, Woiceshyn takes a closer look at the progressive education philosophy. This philosophy "maintains that the cause of social strife is the unwillingness of an individual to sacrifice his convictions to the group. Dewey maintained that it is the insistence on distinctions such as 'true versus false' and 'right versus wrong'...

Emand and Fraser offer a helpful piece on Dewey's theories, which may often be confusing and seemingly contradictory. The article lays out a question, and then answers it with several quotes from various writings by John Dewey.

Gatto describes a plan developed by "Gary, Indiana, Superintendent William A. Wirt, a former student of John Dewey’s at the University of Chicago...in which school subjects were departmentalized; this required movement of students from room to room on a regular basis so that all building spaces were in constant use. Bells would ring and just as with Pavlov’s...

Anderson defines and highlights the legacies of Progressivism. He mentions two early Progressive leaders, Teddy Roosevelt and John Dewey. According to Anderson, Roosevelt exemplified the Progressives desire for a stronger executive branch and Dewey represented the Progressives dislike of a decentralized educational system. Anderson highlights 1913 as a key year because of the establishment of...

Analysis Report White Paper

Taking a markedly pro-Dewey stance, Novack discusses Dewey's international impact on educational reform as well as the necessity of such reform. Honoring what would have been Dewey's 100th birthday, Novack calls for further implementation of his theories and reforms.

"This historic context study spans more than a hundred years and the approximately 140 buildings constructed, acquired, maintained, expanded, and sometimes removed by the Minneapolis Board of Education between 1849 and 1962."

Taking a rigid free-market stance on education, Hood examines the inefficiencies and failures of America's public education system. Rather than siding with one group in particular over the matter, he finds numerous problems - monopoly of the system, centralized decision-making, tenure - which contribute to the downfall of such a system.

"Wirt devised a diverse curriculum to prepare youth for the new emerging industrial state, and a significant part of Wirt's innovative currciulum included sports, games, and play activities. Wirt referred to his system as a work-study-play school, but it was also termed as the Gary plan and platoon school."

Field gives an in depth look at Dewey, including analysis on Dewey's social theories, the public's reception of him, and his thoughts on learning and education. From the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, the article is cited thoroughly and examines Dewey and his philosophies with a keen academic eye.

The piece discusses the decline in America's schools, with regard to both its role as a government funded institution as well as the partnership that is formed between parent, teacher, and student. Though the structure of public education is flawed, education itself has become a political, social and cultural issue.

McCluskey discusses current social conflicts in American public schools and then explores the history of American schooling from the Founding until now.

Video/Podcast/Media

From the description: "This is a group project for teachers about the history of education from 1900-1950."

"The Travelers" describe some of the changes in society as a result of immigration, the transition from education emphasizing the "three R's" to a progressive education model of work, study, play, and the influences of Dewey and...

This is a 4-minute sample clip about Dewey from a film that is part of the series called GIANTS. It briefly explores Dewey's critique of the reflex arc concept in psychology, his belief in truth as process, and his belief in democracy.

"In this program, Columbia University professor Sidney Morgenbesser discusses the nuances of pragmatic philosophy as expressed by three of America's greatest thinkers. Moranbesser examines Peirce's theory of meaning and the notion of fallibilism that supports the changing nature of truth. James' concept of meaning, knowledge, and truth is examined within the context of the usefulness of...

"This video presents a positive view of progressive education although it begins with a parent complaining that children are not learning the fundamentals. Various educators are seen including famed John Dewey. One skeptic asserts that ideas similar to progressive education caused a collapse of the ancient Greek civilization. Current debates about educational techniques in many respects seem...

"A quick expose of why public schools in the US are mediocre. From John Dewey to now in only 4 minutes."

Primary Document

Arguably Dewey's most controversial essay, Impressions describes Soviet Russia in a strikingly positive light. Writing just as Stalin assumed official leadership, Dewey, despite finding some slightly troublesome qualities of the regime, recognized a certain legitimacy of the Soviet system. Though he...

In this piece Dewey truly does lay out his own "creed" on education, even beginning each paragraph with, "I believe."  Using his extensive background in psychology and combining it with his social philosophy, Dewey presents five sections concerning education:
1)      What Education Is
2)     ...

G.K. Chesterton’s essay on education addresses everything from what education is, to what role parents and public schooling should play in education. Chesterton believes that education is continually occurring whether or not a person is in an acceptable educational...

In late 1936 and early 1937 the famous educational theorist John Dewey issued a set of rebuttals to Robert Hutchins' book, The Higher Learning in America. Hutchins' book...

In late 1936 and early 1937 the famous educational theorist John Dewey issued a set of rebuttals to Robert Hutchins' book, The Higher Learning in America. Dewey uses his...

In this work, Lewis defends a universal law of morality.

This book and The School and Society, "which grew out of Dewey’s hands-on...

Perhaps the pioneer in progressive education, Parker helped pave the way for Dewey and others...

This book and The Child and the Curriculum, "which grew out of Dewey’s hands-on experience in administering the laboratory school at the University of Chicago, represent the...

Books

FAQs

This FAQ provides some background on education in Minnesota, which in turn will help one to understand today's state of education.

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