The Journal of General Education 52.1 (2003) v-vii
[Access article in PDF]
Associate Editor's Notes
This issue presents the thoughts and work of scholars and covers the topics of transcendence, the theory of disciplinarity and curricular development, and the assessment of critical thinking in higher education.
In the first two articles in this issue of the Journal of General Education, readers will notice a concern with values. Particularly, the authors write about pedagogy that will engage students enough so that they will ask difficult questions and begin to understand the complex nature of disciplines. Both seek reform that will place values more obviously in the curriculum, but the two articles differ on the matter of transcendence. Logically enough—and to round out the issue—the third article in JGE 52.1 looks closely at assessment of critical thinking.
In "Values, Transcendence, and Teaching: A Symposium," four faculty members at Keuka College, a liberal arts-based college in western New York, relate how transcendent values are incorporated in their pedagogy. The essays arouse from a series of campus discussions at Keuka supported by the Rhodes Consultation on the Future of the Church-Related College.
Faced with the question of the existence of "some" standard of morality beyond the human experience, Michael McKenzie turns to the idea of narrative in his course on ethics. He believes that both ancient and contemporary written works use narrative as the vehicle for moral lessons, and that the study of them can help students become aware that there are transcendent values that reach above mere opinion.
Kenneth Williams argues for generative learning ("education for significance") in the second of the four essays, "Generative Learning and Transcendent Values." He places this concept in opposition to adaptive learning—"about education for success." The latter asks the question, 'What can I do with what I am asked to learn?'; the former, 'How might I be changed by what I am asked to learn?' In the essay, he describes aspects of a required 100-level course titled Integrative Studies—'Foundations of Liberal Learning' and the manner in which the course approaches generative learning and transcendent values. [End Page v]
A third essay, "Critical Transcendence in Composition and Literature," by Anne Weed, suggests that a "shaking up [of accepted values] is what a liberal education does best for its students." Weed uses a "transcendent pedagogy," which she defines as providing "opportunities for self-reflection, to create a shared space for the expression of feelings and the voicing of doubts, to create an inner space for students to see and understand themselves in relation to the larger world beyond their immediate experience."
Finally, Thomas X. Carroll discusses science and values in terms of a survey course titled "Introduction to Environmental Science." In this course, issues arise due to the students' overabundance of value judgments and pre-conceived notions that "can actually impede learning." The instructor's task, then, is to define "what science is, and what it must be" if it is to function as science—that is, to see transcendence as "staying somewhat 'above and beyond' that which is not at the core of science...."
Looking at values from another point of view, in "'Comprehensive' Curricular Reform: Providing Students with a Map of the Scholarly Enterprise," Rick Szostak examines interdisciplinarity as a means to education "for lifelong learning and responsible citizenship." Szostak believes that interdisciplinary studies can be useful to students, but also recognizes that students "have difficulty drawing connections across courses from different disciplines," while faculty tend to look at "distributional requirements in terms of perspectives rather than content, and thus desire students to integrate across these perspectives." While discussing the five characteristics that mark differences among disciplines, Szostak considers the role of worldview/ethics and "the rules of the game." Interdisciplinarity must embrace both the "five types of ethical perspectives [afforded by various disciplines]" and take students outside disciplinary rules to observe the wide range of possible approaches. He says, "The first step in any integrative endeavor must involve the identification of phenomena, theories, methods, and philosophical perspectives relevant to a particular topic...