The History of the CCC
Much of the difficulty that confronts the CCC originates in the history of the program. Fredonia has required some sort of general education program for many decades. Though the programs have varied over that time, sometimes in significant ways, they have all faced a similar problem: how to promote “general education” requirements as beneficial to students, cost-effective to administrators, and worthwhile to faculty and professional staff. The current program, mandated across SUNY by the Board of Trustees in 1999-2000 satisfies, it would seem, practically none of the constituencies it is meant to serve (students, faculty, professional staff). With the exception of easing “transferability” for students transferring between SUNY institutions, the CCC remains a set of distribution requirements, many of which can be satisfied by high school Regents scores or AP exam credit.
Two FIPSE-funded studies, one in 1989 and another in 1995, assessed student learning of the previous general education incarnation, called the General College Program (GCP). That program, in place since Fall 1982, utilized a three-part system designed to build basic skills in mathematical reasoning, writing, and visual learning; students then took pairs of discipline-introduction courses across the humanities, social and natural sciences; the program culminated in two upper-level courses that exposed students to “cross-cultural” and multi-disciplinary knowledge that had to be “outside” a student’s major department. These assessments showed consistent problems in students’ metacognitive and analytical learning, though they did note some progress in the targeted areas. Of the nine tests given to freshmen and juniors in the 1995 assessment, results showed “non-significant gains” in writing, reading, reflective thinking and quantitative problem solving. There were “significant gains” in scientific thinking and socioethical reasoning; yet “the demonstrated level achieved in these skills by juniors is not high. Though there are clear exceptions, in general our students show a modest inclination to think critically or reflectively. This is not to say that they lack important intellectual skills, nor that they fail to improve upon them. Rather they seem unaccustomed to exploring the strengths and weaknesses of their own thought… these tests uncovered only limited evidence of growth in intellectual self-awareness among our students” said the report (“The GCP and Student Learning: Second Report to the Faculty” by the GCP Assessment Committee, Fall 1995, pp. 24-25).
The campus engaged in a significant effort to rethink the GCP following that report. The GCP committee proposed a significant redesign, creating several possible models that were introduced at University Senate meetings and elsewhere, generating lively discussions. The campus was poised to adopt a new program when the SUNY Board of Trustees and the provost undermined that effort by mandating what many faculty at the time believed to be a backward-thinking general education model, one that required discrete requirements across the traditional areas of mathematics, humanities, arts, social and natural sciences. Its greatest challenge for Fredonia was the requirement that all students take a foreign language, three courses in American, Western and non-Western history, and meet a speaking-intensive requirement, all of which impacted already taxed resources. Only one writing course, English Composition, was required in the CCC (whereas the GCP had required two writing courses in addition to requiring writing components in most of the other sections of the program). Faculty and professionals from Fredonia and other SUNY schools argued with the SUNY Central administration as well as some local administrators about various aspects of the new program, but to little avail. Ultimately Fredonia decided to add requirements, such as a second social science course, a second natural science course, and a second language course for students in B.A. programs, as well as an upper-level requirement, in order to give the program some modicum of “integrity.”
The SUNY mandate came with promises of increased funding which, to no one’s surprise, never materialized. Fredonia faculty, staff and administrators scrambled to implement a viable program by the provost’s deadline, frustrated at the way the administrative process had taken place and with no enthusiasm for the distribution model. That frustration and lack of support remain eight years later; both faculty and students speak of CCC requirements as “things to get out of the way” and students have tried to avoid them altogether through advanced placement tests and particular scores on Regents exams. Many faculty wonder whether such a program can genuinely be called a “college core curriculum” when so many of its requirements may be met while students are in high school.