Top of the Class

August 24, 2004

Baylor gets a gold star -- and the only one awarded -- for the strength of its core curriculum. The University's commitment to provide an academically sound and integrated education has been lauded in a study on general education requirements conducted by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni. Baylor is the only school in the report that meets the ACTA's highest criteria.
The council, based in Washington, D.C., was founded by political and social leaders in 1995 out of concern for the quality of education at American universities. The nonprofit institution supports policies that encourage academic freedom, strong curricula and accountability.
To this end, ACTA completed a study in April titled The Hollow Core: Failure of the General Education Curriculum. The premise states that most colleges and universities tout the importance of requiring strong core courses, but many fall short of the goal. By drawing attention to these shortcomings, the organization hopes to improve school programs. 
Fifty schools were examined and graded on a scale of "A" to "F" according to the quality of their general education curricula. They included the Big 12, Big Ten, Ivy League, Seven Sisters and a collection of 13 other institutions of higher learning. Only Baylor received an "A," requiring six of the seven ACTA-recommended core classes.
According to the council, effective foundational curricula include mathematics, writing composition, U.S. history and government, foreign language, economics and science. The Baylor core excludes only economics but requires courses in Christian religion and physical education and Chapel attendance. 
"In part, this commitment relates to the belief that the core curriculum teaches students how to learn, to raise ultimate questions anew, to explore questions that have no single answers and to provide a broad picture of the world," said Wallace L. Daniel Jr., dean of Baylor's College of Arts and Sciences. "This perspective in undergraduate education, therefore, is opposed to narrow specialization, to breaking the world into separate parts and viewing them as isolated. Some of these trends in higher education undermine the life of the mind."