What do all students need to know?

 

What should every graduate of UCSB know in order to be an educated and enlightened citizen in the 21st century? Speaking as an outsider to UCSB, here's one stab at an answer: Nothing--at least nothing that wasn't already taught in high school. High school is the place to teach core knowledge. Obviously this doesn't always happen, and colleges and universities probably have remedial work to do. But to accept the premise that it is part of the role of colleges and universities to offer students the core knowledge necessary to be educated and enlightened citizens is to accept that many citizens--those who only complete high school--are somehow deficient as citizens. Some are tempted to that view. But it certainly seems undemocratic. If there is a shared body of knowledge necessary to good citizenship, we have to insist that the high schools teach it.

 

Having said this, I should also say that I'm a great believer in a strong general education program. But its purpose is to raise foundational intellectual skills--communication, analysis, synthesis, problem solving, interpretation, research, etc.--to a high level, and to help future specialists see the interdependencies of different areas of learning--that literature and mathematics can speak to one another, for instance. Its purpose is not to teach a body of knowledge essential to citizenship.

 

Panelists for the Oct 28 Faculty Forum were asked to provide some background reading that might be helpful in preparation for the event. I thought it would be interesting for folks to look through what is supposed to be taught in California public high schools. I've condensed the state standards for English-language arts, history and social science, mathematics, and science down to just grades 9 - 12 (links are below). They are still very long and not for reading start to finish. But they are illuminating just to poke around in. If our college graduates really knew all this, we would have very educated and enlightened citizens indeed!

 

Chris Hoeckley

Director

Gaede Institute for the Liberal Arts

Westmont College

 

English standards

History/social science standards

Mathematics

Science