lower division classes

Ross Koning koning at ECSUC.CTSTATEU.EDU
Thu May 15 07:54:39 EST 1997

At 4:28 PM -0400 5/14/97, Cynthia M. Galloway wrote:
>We are currently trying to add more Botany and Conservation-type courses to
>our curriculum and have run up against an interesting problem and were
>wondering if other Universities had the same problem.  We offer a 100 levvel
>Introductory Botany course that is required of all majors.  All other Botany
>courses are at the 400 or senior level with the exception of Plant Taxonomy
>which is a 300 level course.  The courses we would like to offer we would
>like to offer at the 200 level.  These courses may be Ethnobotany or Plants
>and Man or Conservation of Natural Resourses.  The problem is that majors
>will not take a nonadvanced course (under 300) because it does not count
>toward graduation and nonmajors won't take an advanced course because they
>think it will be too hard.  So, if we try to attract majors by giving an
>inflated course number we will be scaring off nonmajors.  The subject matter
>needs to get out but, how??  Our students refuse to take a course they don't
>have to take and no one seems to be taking classes just because they are
>interested in the subject. Is this a general trend across the Nation??


We have a similar problem here at ECSU.  Indeed freshmen
non-majors try to avoid science as long as possible, though
we want to attract them.  We could number in the 1** range
but then Juniors and Seniors need to apply for a waiver
to take a 1** course. If we number it 2** the waiver isn't
required but freshmen assume it is a sophomore course.
Worse, transfer students from community colleges (some of
our best come to us by this route) already have all the
1** and 2** courses they can include; they really MUST take
only 3** and 4** to meet the upper-division credits requirement.
So the 2** course would not be taken by them.  If we number
it 3** we get the transfers, but freshmen and sophomores will
avoid it completely and seniors who are science-phobic will
assume it is too rigorous and will also avoid it.

It seems we cannot please anyone with the course numbers.
Worse, I think our American culture has become so focused
on things human that courses on other organisms are the
bottom of the interest barrel any more. It seems student
interest goes: 1. Human, 2. Primate, 3. Mammal, 4. Vertebrate,
5. Animal, 10. All others.

Students who take the other courses are usually excited about
the courses but only starting half-way through the semester.
Since most of them are seniors, their enthusiasm by the end
is lost on the freshmen, sophomores, and juniors.  Graduation
takes it away from the campus.

Students are preoccupied with vocational goals and want to
overspecialize in their bachelor degree.  For example the
pre-med types will only consider Human Anatomy, Human Physiology,
Endocrinology, Microbiology, Parasitology, etc.  Getting a
botany or ecology course in their schedules is next to impossible.
Arguments that medical schools will want to teach human subjects
to them in their own particular fashion fall on deaf ears.
The design of the MCAT has deteriorated over the years to foster
this kind of curriculum.  I think the level of humanity among
doctors has suffered because of this "blinders on" philosophy.
Little wonder we have hysterectomy factories, abortion clinics,
obstetric stays limited to a minimum, and so on.  Sure this
mentality allows us to have some fabulous state-of-art treatment
programs, but the clinics are focused on the disease rather than
the patient with the disease in many cases.  Thank goodness for
the exceptions to these observations!

Enough babble!


Ross Koning                 | koning at ecsu.ctstateu.edu
Biology Department          | http://koning.ecsu.ctstateu.edu/
Eastern CT State University | phone: 860-465-5327
Willimantic, CT 06226 USA   | fax: 860-465-4479

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