Science in the Liberal Arts Curriculum
Less than one-third of American undergraduates major in the natural sciences, mathematics, or engineering. This project examined the goals of science requirements for nonscientists, and how students fulfill those requirements, in an effort to inform curriculum policies at higher education institutions.
The American Academy undertook a study to examine the role of science education in the liberal arts curriculum. More than two-thirds of enrolled students at U.S. colleges and universities do not major in the natural sciences, engineering, or mathematics. For these students, the science courses they take in college represent their last formal science education and preparation for the increasingly scientifically and technologically based society of the 21st century. The primary objectives of the study were to:
- examine philosophies behind science requirements for nonscientists in the liberal arts curriculum,
- determine how non-science majors fulfill their science requirements, and
- disseminate findings to enrich discussions of curriculum reform at higher education institutions.
The Academy assembled a group of colleges and universities to join the project. The partner institutions provided information on how non-science majors at their institutions fulfill their science requirements. In August 2007, the Academy convened academic leaders from 34 universities and colleges to discuss science curricula for non-science majors. The forum facilitated the exchange of information about the course-taking habits of nonscientists and discussion of the goals of science requirements for nonscientists and of new ideas for science education within the liberal arts curriculum.
In January 2011, the Academy published a volume of essays that reflects on ideas for teaching science in the liberal arts curriculum and recommends a variety of strategies for higher-education institutions. This publication will be useful to administrators and faculty members who are in the process of updating their institutions’ curricula, thereby having a positive influence on the state of science education at the post-secondary level in this country.
The project was co-chaired by Jerrold Meinwald (Cornell University) and John Hildebrand (University of Arizona). Contributors to the volume Science and the Educated American: A Core Component of Liberal Education include: Jon Clardy (Harvard Medical School), Diane Ebert-May (Michigan State University), Martha Haynes (Cornell University), Robert Hazen (Carnegie Institution of Washington), Sally Hoskins (City College of New York), Chris Impey (University of Arizona); Darcy Kelley (Columbia University), Eugene Levy (Rice University), Jon Miller (Michigan State University), Richard A. Muller (University of California, Berkeley), Don Randel (Andrew W. Mellon Foundation), Frank Rhodes (Cornell University), and James Trefil (George Mason University).