Ben Kohane’s article “The New Core Curriculum: Ready for Year Two” discusses the Core Curriculum, now entering its second year in Yeshiva. I do not wish to argue with any facts presented in the article, simply an attitude, which although not explicitly given voice, is pervasive throughout, and reflects a broader problem I see at Yeshiva College. I am referring to an attitude of constantly comparing the Core Curriculum with the previous requirements system; A constant debate of old curriculum vs. new curriculum.
Since the Core’s inception, this discussion over the Core vs. the previous system has been raging. Even faculty, when engaging in discussions about the Core, find themselves simply upholding the comparison. Regardless of your opinion (I am in favor of the Core Curriculum, but even if you are not), it is time for the discussion to change. The Core Curriculum has won, every student who enters our institution is required to be part of this system, and it is time for the debate to move forward accordingly. The debate should no longer be “old” vs. “new,” but “is the Core accomplishing the goals our institution stands for?”
Multiple times during the article, Mr. Kohane compares the requirements of the Core to that of the previous system, and the title itself uses the term “New Core Curriculum.” Additionally, he uses the word “new” sixteen times throughout the article, and in the last line refers you to a website for details about “the new curriculum,” completely ignoring the term “Core.” The use of the term “new” when discussing the Core, doesn’t allow us to talk about the Core on its own terms, but simply as something new, and its relation to the old. If we want to change the debate, we must also change how we refer to the Core.
When discussed in terms of “old” vs. “new,” the Core curriculum can not stand on its own merits. We should be hearing discussions about the values of interdisciplinary learning, whether that translates into how the Core is accomplishing its goal of developing greater thinkers, and whether this goal itself is valuable, and if so how valuable.
The Core is not a perfect system. I have heard students discuss their frustrations with the lack of options available in certain requirements. Additionally, there are more fundamental changes which should be discussed. Beyond simply fixing the requirements already in place, students should be debating changes to the requirements themselves, or how these requirements function. Evaluating the Core on its own terms, and not in comparison to previous systems, will allow us to make these sorts of changes and improvements.
The Core curriculum stands at the heart of our institution the seven classes which unite all students regardless of major, or previous AP’s. It is extremely important and should be discussed accordingly. But it is time for us to move from the debate of the past, of “old” vs. “new,” to the debate of the present. To move from the “new” towards the “now” in any discussion of the Core.