Reframing General Education


From the colonial colleges to the present-day flagship universities, the undergraduate general education curriculum has dramatically shifted from a single, faculty-prescribed, general program to a diverse array of elective, student-choice-driven, specialized programs of general studies. This transformation has also encouraged, if not established, faculty specialization, disciplinary departments, and through research, the production of “new knowledge.” The general education curriculum has served as a dynamic “locus and transmitter” of student, faculty, and administrative as well as external social, cultural, economic, and governmental educational values and aspirations. While the contemporary general education curriculum has been comparatively static, general education represents a balance—or at least a stalemate, depending on one’s perspective—of these often competing interests. While much has been written about general education, the enormity and complexity of the subject proves difficult for just a single theory to yield meaningful analysis and interpretation. Handily, Lee G. Bolman and Terrance E. Deal’s Reframing Organizations: Artistry, Choice, and Leadership dissuades a single theoretical perspective in favor of a multifaceted analysis and interpretation; and when applied to general education, it allows a great deal of flexibility, and a number of useful themes emerge.