Few courses have been as controversial as Frontiers of Science. Even without the attention from Emlyn Hughes’ notorious disrobing, the class was still a lightning rod for debate. It was opined about at length, discussed by past editorial boards, and argued fiercely in town halls. It was a source of contention for a student body who was generally less than pleased with the course.
Frontiers was a novel idea—one without much precedent and virtually untested. Since its inception, Frontiers has been continually evaluated, both internally and externally. The report from the Educational Planning and Policy Committee, released over the summer by Spectator, was the final blow to the current formulation of Frontiers. It unequivocally called for changes to a curriculum in need of them. In response, Columbia College Dean James Valentini has appointed a committee of faculty, staff, alumni, and students with the purpose of creating a new general science course for the Core Curriculum.
We applaud these measures to improve science education at Columbia. This new committee has the potential to make truly sweeping changes. Any change to the Core affects thousands of students, likely for years to come.
With that in mind, we would advise that this incoming committee carefully take into account the EPPC report. The EPPC review committee’s report was a meticulously researched, carefully written treatise on the state of Frontiers. It unequivocally delineated the problems and potential solutions for problems inherent to Frontiers. The new committee should implement this report’s recommendations, including the elimination of lectures and a refashioned course around small seminars with a standardized curriculum.
The changes to Frontiers—which may not even bear the same name next year—will be changes to the Core. As students who have been through Frontiers, we have a great deal of vested interest in this matter. We do not want future students to go through Frontiers.
It should not be too much to ask, then, for small updates from the committee. We should be made aware of this new course’s mission statement, above anything else. The premise of Frontiers was flawed and unclear; that should not happen again. In the past, town hall meetings have been effective at generating ideas and voicing concerns—this case is no different.
Our involvement in this process is a small request, but it stands to make a great difference. Transparency throughout the creation of this course will prevent Frontiers 2.0 from being looked on with the same distaste as its predecessor.
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