Science and the Educated American: A Core Component of Liberal Education


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Jerrold Meinwald and John G. Hildebrand
Science in the Liberal Arts Curriculum

The American Academy’s project on Science in the Liberal Arts Curriculum pays special attention to the challenges of and opportunities for teaching science in a general education context, considering how best to engage those students not majoring in the physical or natural sciences. It also argues that scientific literacy developed during a student’s undergraduate years plays a critical role in the quality of our national debate and, in turn, the health of our democracy.

In August 2007, the Academy convened academic leaders from thirty-four colleges and universities to discuss science curricula for non-science majors. The forum facilitated the exchange of ideas across institutions, focusing on innovative teaching methods and common barriers. The participants also completed a survey of their institutions’ existing science requirements for nonscientists, the options available for fulfilling those requirements, and the assessments used to determine success in meeting science-education objectives. This volume grew out of the Academy conference and survey. (A list of participants and schools represented in the survey responses is included at the end of this volume.)

The essays contain descriptions of specific courses, concrete strategies for curricular reform, and spirited defenses of the value of science to the liberal arts curriculum. We hope that administrators and faculty members will find this publication useful in updating their institutions’ curricula. We are confident that the many new ideas and thoughtful recommendations in this volume will have a positive influence on post-secondary science education in America.

The Academy thanks especially Jerrold Meinwald and John G. Hildebrand for their guidance of the project and for serving as editors of this publication. We are thankful to the Simons Foundation for supporting the publication and dissemination of this important volume and the Academy’s ongoing work in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education. We also acknowledge the partial support provided by the Podell Emeriti Awards for Research and Scholarship, awarded through the Cornell Association of Professors Emeriti. We are grateful to Katie Donnelly and Kim Durniak, the program officers who worked closely with Jerry and John on the conference and publication, respectively. Thank you also to the program assistants and publication staff for helping to produce this publication. Most of all, we express our gratitude to the contributors for bringing their knowledge and creative ideas together in an effort to inform curriculum debate at higher-education institutions.

Leslie Cohen Berlowitz
President and William T. Golden Chair
American Academy of Arts and Sciences