In the English Department at NAU, there is, right this very moment, a sense of revolution in the air. Only, perhaps “revolution” is too strong a word. More like a sense of responsible, progressive academic reform—a phrase that makes up in accuracy what it loses in general sexiness.
The reform that I’m referring to involves a major shakeup in the design of the English undergrad program. And, let me tell you, it’s about time. Given the program as it currently stands, an English major can set about to obtaining all of the necessary credits to graduate without feeling any sort of cohesion or consistency in his or her education. Each class, rather than building on the ones that came before it, or preparing you for the ones to follow, seems like its own lonely island. An English major might take, in the same semester, a creative writing course, two literature classes, and a class in rhetoric, without feeling any connection between them, except of the most superficial kind.
That’s the problem this “reform” is looking to address. As of right now, the English undergrad program really doesn’t feel that cumulative. A graduate may walk away with discrete pockets of knowledge yet no real sense of how they connect and build on one another. The “big picture” is missing. All you have are fragments.
The proposal, then, currently circulating throughout the hallways of the Liberal Arts building, would be to make a greater push to demonstrate the ways in which the main branches of the English program—Literature, Creative Writing, Rhetoric, and Linguistics—are intimately connected with one another. The classes would be cumulative, so that information acquired in lower level courses would be elaborated on in much more detail in the advanced courses that follow. A student would have a sense of direction rather than leaping haphazardly from isolated class to isolated class.
The plan remains, at present, only just a plan. The subterranean vibrations have yet to reach the surface, have yet to topple the existing order. From everything I’ve heard so far, many students and faculty members are hopeful that the change will happen. But as for now, we’ll simply have to wait and see.
Photo Credit: She's Only Little