Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Oxbridge or American System?

During a discussion last night, the question was brought up concerning the University system most proper and conducive for an integrated education, specifically Catholic education (it was also remarked that the secular academy is in pretty bad shape as well.) The two options brought forward were the Oxbridge model (used at Oxford and Cambridge) and the American model. The Oxbridge system is based around residential colleges with faculty in various disciplines. The University has a certain number of faculty in each discipline doing scholarly work at the University. Students choose a subject to study (History, Maths, Physics etc.) and find the appropriate tutors from the University faculty under which to study. This is at least how I understood it.

I am of course a little more familiar with the American system as I go to an American University. Each discipline is part of a College or School of related disciplines. The students live in dorms or apartments and enroll in a college based on discipline. They then have a certain number of requirement from the University and a number of requirements from the college. The faculty belong to the college and of course are still doing scholarly work.

The sort of "ideal" curricular organization that we discussed was as follows: Each School or College would offer at least two semesters of the history of the subject (History of Engineering, not of electrical engineering per se), a couple of semesters of the philosophy of the subject and depending on the discipline, some other interdisciplinary classes (psychology of environment for architects, for instance). At a Catholic University, at least one of the requirements would be a theology class either based on the subject (for instance, reading the Latin and Greek Fathers for a classics major) or the theology of the subject (for instance, studying the theology of human nature for psychology majors).

Presumably, these interdisciplinary classes could be co-taught by faculty of the different disciplines, or they could be taught by someone who has experience in both. There are many architecture professors at Notre Dame who have a philosophy of architecture and only barely avoid having a class on it.

Of course, you would not be required to be in the major to take one of these interdisciplinary classes. I mean, anyone should potentially be able to take "The Latin and Greek Fathers" as a theology course whether or not they are Theology or Classics.

And at a Catholic University, these classes should be taught with either a specifically Catholic view of the world and the subject, or at least one that is friendly to it.

So, which system would work better?

Perhaps it would be a mixture of both.

More discussions will be had.

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