Students, faculty, and administrations at the college level often debate the practicality of core curriculum. Some believe such broad courses enhance the ability to perform in our multi-faceted society. Undecided students get a taste of several disciplines, while major-bound students receive simple perspectives into fields outside their own. The intended result is a well-rounded and competent community. Conversely, some argue that so many broad courses don’t follow increasing demands for specialism. Students often view these courses as fluff, to be skimmed through and almost entirely forgotten after finals week; these courses merely buffer or hinder overall GPA, a rather overrated measure of academic success.
So, a student often finds the teachings of core classes, especially those outside his or her discipline, as unnecessary to retain. But therein lies the problem. Ultra-specialism is vital to real progress in prominent and up-and-coming fields. However, no knowledge or little interest in anything else is dangerous to society and precarious for the individual’s ability to function during adverse situations.
While I believe that the core curriculum is just and beneficial, I offer a course option that further validates core education. Moreover, this course is exemplary of the interdisciplinary nature of life. Sustainability is a strong link between ecology, economics, and social equity (involving political science). Sustainability is the conservation of all resources so that those resources aren’t jeopardized for future generations. Consequently, colleges and universities would do well to incorporate a lower-level sustainability course to mitigate any disinterest in core curriculum.
Sustainability education produces considerate and well-rounded individuals; the three entwined disciplines provide exposure to diverse viewpoints but similar goals. Sustainability education could be integrated into three courses already required (i.e. Biology, Economics, and Political Science). Otherwise, the core concepts could be emphasized in a single team-taught course. Ecologists, economists, and political scientists don’t always see eye to eye, but quite frequently, and not by chance, their inclinations are related. The experience alone of team-teaching is enriching, and I believe that entry-level college students would find a multi-voiced sustainability course highly rewarding.
Although sustainability is generally comprised of three disciplines, it also supplements education, a fourth field. While environmental education is an exploding field, any educator could utilize sustainability concepts in the classroom. The phrase, “Think globally, act locally” insinuates that if people live, learn, and act locally, not only will they become stewards of their communities environmentally, economically, and ethically, but also they will have benefited the world. People would learn principles based on local economic, environmental, or political examples. Placing education in the mix with the other three disciplines makes sustainability a promising option as a required course.
For those seeking more, Advanced Sustainability could be offered as an optional capstone course. While generally appealing to the four fields inherent to sustainability, other seniors would be welcome to take this upper division course. At this level, text book information could be supplemented by novels, educational trips, team projects, as well as flaring debates. The key is students will tie their major back into the comprehensive picture. As an added benefit, students may network more successfully in multiple fields.
Overall, though, fundamentals of sustainability would benefit the minds of future business leaders, economists, political scientists, politicians, educators, artists, musicians, writers, caretakers, scientists, etc. This interdisciplinary approach to core-teaching really will produce attentive and well-rounded citizens.