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From: markert@physics.utexas.edu
Subject: Protest of Curriculum Reform
Date: December 8, 2006 8:39:37 AM CST
To: fc@uts.cc.utexas.edu

Dear Office of the General Faculty,

This is to register my vehement protest of the present version of the
plan for curriculum reform. I protest because I think the Signature Courses
will be an undue burden on the students and on the instructional
system; there is no way to adequately train enough TAs to be
"interdisciplinary" experts, and the opportunity cost in terms of other
courses that will no longer be taught will cause incredible harm to
many programs. The few extant successful interdisciplinary courses have
taken incredible amounts of time and dedication to develop, and for
President Powers' original committee on curriculum reform
to suggest that such courses can be decreed to be universal for thousands
of students is a bureaucratic blunder that will harm students.

Any promising idea is worth testing, but a one-semester test with two courses
is not sufficient; if the number of such courses can be doubled each semester
and voluntary registration indicates a successful program, then (i.e., about
five semesters later) might be a good time to consider full implementation.

My own opinion is that any true curriculum reform would start
with going to the state legislature, time and time again if necessary,
and ultimately REMOVING some of the many excessive requirements
currently in place in our curriculum. Students at UT have in essence no
freedom to expand their minds along the directions of their most
creative desires, since for many majors almost all of their 120 hours (if not more)
are specified. The present situation is far too far in contradiction to the
principles of a liberal education and to the development of creative and
inspired graduates.

So I summarize my protest: while curriculum reform may be desirable, the
immediate imposition of Signature Courses would be very harmful. Such
a program should be phased in voluntarily and gradually and evaluated
at each step. And any true curriculum reform at the University of Texas
should begin by a sizable reduction in the number of legislated requirements.
I respectfully suggest that President Powers should make lobbying for true,
state-legislated reform one of his principal efforts.

Sincerely,

John Markert
Department Chair, Physics
markert@physics.utexas.edu

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