Note: I wrote this in about 1998, before the Manoa Faculty Senate passed the "new core". I still (2009) think that it would be a better way to organize the curriculum, so I have left it here in case anyone is interested. In my opinion, the new core is not a "core" in any normal sense of the word. It's "design" was more about a creating a structure that will continually re-define a "core" than about the content that would be included. The resulting structure strikes me as an undue amount of overhead, mired in campus politics and kuleana protection, arising out of an apparent inability to decide what knowledge actually constitutes the core of an education today. It amounts to "passing the buck" rather than a shared of understanding of what should constitute the core of an education at the University of Hawaii.
The old (pre-Fall 2001) Manoa Core and Graduation Requirements were a burdensome, Byzantine, ossified mess that grew through time. (See Ron Cambra's "The UHM Core: Snapshots" , [This web-page was taken down or moved. Ask Dr Cambra where it has gone.]) I suspect that it inhibited innovation and did not demonstrably enhanced education.
I would argue that the current Manoa requirements are worse. There is no pretense of it being a core. It added overhead for those seeking and tracking course designations. The situation is made worse by A&S having it's own similarly byzantine though more slowly changing and essentially orthogonal set of requirements. In short, what we have is demonstrably complex and not demonstrably successful.
The requirements should be simplified to free the students to explore the university in ways that they deem interesting, and to allow the faculty to be more responsive to student needs. At the same time, breadth of perspective should be encouraged.
Below are a set of proposed changes that are intended to address these concerns. I offer them as a point of departure for discussion of a re-formed core.
A Bachelor of Arts Degree would require:
A Bachelor of Science, BS, would be awarded if the student's program included three of the following four sequences:
Students would more freedom to explore disciplines. Students would be free to explore the range of disciplines at the University and they would still have to develop depth of familiarity with several.
The university would be a free-er market of ideas and insights, and probably more responsive to student demand. One explicit intent in this proposal is to break away from the ossification of the (old) current core and the unstable nature of the new one. There is currently little incentive to introduce new 100 and 200 level courses that are not part of the core because they have to compete for enrollments with required options of the core. Similarly, there is the disincentive to students to explore new areas via courses that do not fill as many requirements as possible.
Inter-campus articulation of the Manoa Core would be simplified. Departments would have to decide whether courses in their discipline offered on the other campuses meet their requirements. Interaction with colleages on other campuses may be, therefore, encouraged.
These changes would also eliminate some bureacratic and administrative overhead. Bringing degrees more clearly in line with departments would discourage the unweildy and irresponsible practice of colleges offering courses outside of departments. Finally, the need for a committee to review courses proposed for the core and the need to see whether core requirements (or equivalents) were met would both be eliminiated.
written Summer 1998
modified 13 May 1999
lightly revisted Aug 2009