More Religion at Harvard: The Report is in the mail

Profs Await Report After Mailing Error

Published On 10/5/2006 3:49:10 AM
Crimson Staff Writer

The unveiling of the new general education report left many waiting with bated breath.

Hard copies of the much-anticipated proposal to replace the Core Curriculum were set to be delivered to faculty boxes yesterday. But an apparent snafu within the Harvard University Mail system has delayed delivery for at least a day.

“We’re all baffled and plan to double check on this in the morning,” Professor of Philosophy Alison Simmons, a co-chair of the task force that drafted the report, wrote in an e-mail yesterday evening.

Simmons said her committee still had no plans to release the report online. Co-chair Louis Menand, Bass professor of English and American Literature and Language, said in an interview Tuesday that “the idea is we want this to be an internal Harvard document.”

“We’re just reluctant to put it around the world right away,” he said.

Nevertheless, the committee’s preliminary report, which would require students to take courses on religion and U.S. history as part of a new set of 10 mandatory areas of study, started making waves across the nation yesterday. In an evening dispatch, The Associated Press called the task force’s recommendations “surprisingly bold.” And The Wall Street Journal gave prominent treatment to news of the proposal on its website.

On campus, many professors were reluctant to offer their opinions of the report before they had read the actual document.

Saltonstall Professor of History Charles S. Maier ’60, a member of the Committee on General Education that drafted earlier reports, said he had obtained a copy of the report yesterday and supported most of its proposals.

But he said the report’s recommendation to replace the three Literature and Arts requirements in the current Core with a single “Cultural Traditions and Cultural Change” course needed further discussion.

“Students need to develop a sense not only of culture as tradition, but an aesthetic sensitivity as well,” he said.

Former Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis ’68, a frequent critic of the current Core Curriculum, said he was already impressed by the outlines of the proposal as described in news reports. “It’s a structure that proceeds from a sensible rationale, based on observing the ways in which the student body has changed over the years,” Lewis said over the phone last night. More...

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