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Claire B. Potter: Could Flipping the Curriculum Lead to More Jobs and Better Educated Students?

Claire B. Potter is Professor of History at The New School for Public Engagement. She blogs at Tenured Radical.

Another school year ends, and the MOOC people are happily planting stories in the media about a teaching model that, if it succeeds, is likely to kill off full time work in the liberal arts forever. How do we fight this, and the concurrent view that liberal arts BAs are simply a thing of the past?

Here’s my idea: let’s flip the curriculum. Kill the survey courses and start teaching history as applied knowledge, and as a set of skills that can tangibly enhance the careers that most of our students will actually have.

As a profession, we have, to date, mounted few successful counter-arguments to those who wish to shift resources away from teaching, and jobs, in the humanities and social sciences. One of the reasons that MOOCs may be doing so well is that they represent practically the only big idea that the academy has had in the past several decades. Many of our colleagues in the humanities have played defense for so long it’s hard to know what a good, solid curricular reform would look like....

And yet, in a moment when flexibility and innovation is being called for, if we look at all but the top-tier, four-year colleges, what do we see in a history curriculum? Survey after survey. They are a basic curricular staple, the courses one must take before having access to anything relevant. They are the courses anyone can teach (there is a whole army of people out there who will teach any survey offered, regardless of their own training.) The survey becomes more and more prominent as we move down the ladder of prestige to the two-year colleges, where generic curricula make it possible to hire and fire part-time faculty without worrying about losing “coverage.”...

Read entire article at Tenured Radical