Texas Higher Ed Board v. Logic


With just a few days before the start of the school year, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board has removed from the curriculum a number of courses meant to fulfill the “Language, Philosophy, & Culture” core requirement at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV). Among the struck courses are several in philosophy, including a number of ethics courses, logic, and critical thinking.

Interestingly, the objectives of the “Language, Philosophy, & Culture” requirement include “critical thinking.” Not too critical, perhaps?

UTRGV was created in 2013 as a consolidation of two other University of Texas branch campuses (Brownsville and Pan American). (UPDATE: It opened its doors to students starting this fall). As far as I know, no publicly available explanation has been provided as to why these particular courses were removed from the school’s core curriculum. Students at UTRGV are required to take just one course in “Language, Philosophy, & Culture.” Seven philosophy courses, along with courses in anthropology, English, Mexican-American studies, and music, remain as options. (via John Protevi)

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Marcus
Marcus
5 years ago

Given the goals of the school, the other classes that fulfill this requirement, and the other core requirements, this seems likes very reasonable course of action.Report

ejrd
ejrd
Reply to  Marcus
5 years ago

Could you say why Marcus? At my institution we have what are often dozens of courses that satisfy each of our core requirements. If the courses are on the books and still being taught, why strike them from the core?Report

marcus
marcus
Reply to  ejrd
5 years ago

Certainly.
Look at the other courses that count for the requirement:
In Philosophy:
Intro to Philosophy, Intro to Latin American Philosophy, and Introduction to Asian Philosophy. In other disciplines, the classes allowed for this requirement are broad cultural or literature courses. Now look at some of the classes that aren’t given credit (for this particular requirement): Specialized ethics courses (Bio-medical, Environmental, Business, Engineering Ethics); Public Speaking, Special Topics in literature, Logic.

If the goal of the requirement is not just to take any language, culture, or philosophy course, but to require a broader course who’s goal is in part to develop a broader awareness of literature, philosophy, or culture, rather than a course with a more specialized focus, then this seems like a reasonable move, at least to me.

I’m not saying that it would be wrong to have a core requirement that was broader, lots of places do and that’s totally fine.

I’m just saying that for a new school (2013) that’s still working through what it wants its core to be, these changes don’t seem unreasonable.Report

Anonladygrad
Anonladygrad
5 years ago

UTRGV ran a late search for a VAP this summer. Does anyone know if this development had a negative effect on the person who was hired for that position?Report

k
k
5 years ago

As part of the consolidation, the core lists for several areas grew a lot, because courses from Brownsville and Edinburg were slightly different, and some departments chose to keep courses on the books even when their curriculum was similar. The courses can still be offered, but a shorter core list keeps it easier for students and departments to plan course offerings. Several of the removed courses are similar to courses that are still fulfill this requirement.
Some of the “removed” courses can still be used to fulfill a different core requirement, so students are still taking them as planned. I don’t know the reasoning in this specific case, but courses can be removed form a core list because they are not close enough to the curricular standards the state set. It could also be related to perceived overlap with other courses or other parts of the core curriculum, or staffing, or assessment (such as a plan to assess students for accreditation purposes within certain courses, which becomes harder to manage if a cohort is spread across dozens of different courses).
This is not that unusual, really. THECB removed some courses from core lists at other UTs last summer, following a minor revision to state standards. They intentionally delayed removing courses from UTB or UTPA last year because they knew the course offerings would change before UTRGV opened its doors in Fall 2015.
There are still a lot of courses that can fulfill UTRGV’s Language, Philosophy & Culture requirement. Most or all of them require critical thinking.
UTRGV was not formed in 2013 (that was the year the legislature passed the law which authorized a new consolidated university, but the university did not legally exist until recently). UTRGV will have its first day of class on Monday, August 31.Report

Just a Guy
Just a Guy
5 years ago

“We are the second largest Hispanic-serving institution in the nation, with an emphasis on educating 21st-century leaders and professionals who are culturally fluent and have a deep understanding of the perspectives, languages, and values of different cultures.”

Doesn’t seem like axing philosophy classes (or holding them but not allowing them to count for anything) does much to advance this goal.Report

Anotheranon
Anotheranon
5 years ago

I agree that the proposal looks quite reasonable from the outside. How is the headline here anything but click bait? (Or perhaps less combatively: why should logic go into this category anyway, or professional ethics for that matter?) Is this just about protecting turf against all comers? Or is there really some evidence that this is about marginalizing philosophy? So far, as a complete outsider to the institution, I don’t see any.

Also, the “critical thinking” jab is a cheap shot. Every category adopts as its first goal critical thinking. These are clearly not meant to include courses about critical thinking, but courses with various contents in the context of which critical thinking skills can be developed.

And in response to some specific comments: Why should the presumption be in favor of inclusion? Maybe that’s reasonable if this is a simple humanities distribution requirement, but there is presumably more of a rationale to the category than “Let’s make the scientists take a humanities course”. And, let’s not pretend that excluding some philosophy classes from fulfilling a particular 3-hour requirement in the “core” curriculum suddenly means that they are “not allowed to count for anything” or hinders the advancement of laudable institutional goals.

Let’s save our collective energy for real attacks on philosophy and real blunders by Texas ed boards (for there are plenty of both), unless there is more to this story.Report

Community College Instructor
Community College Instructor
5 years ago

I wouldn’t immediately consider this an attack on philosophy. If philosophy instructors in Texas aren’t teaching these courses in an uniform fashion, then the higher ed board may have decided to remove the courses because of this. In my own state, logic is the only non-math course which satisfies a quantitative and symbolic reasoning requirement. A couple of years ago the state threaten to remove logic from satisfying this requirement because it wasn’t being taught consistently across the state. It turned out that some instructors were teaching the course without any formalism at all while most others were concentrating on it. Quite a number of philosophy faculty considered this an attack on philosophy itself, but it wasn’t. The state was just want all the instructors teach the class consistent with the requirement. I don’t suppose that this is the situation in Texas, but I wouldn’t also suppose that this is an attack on philosophy.Report

Dr Rava
Dr Rava
5 years ago

To Anonladygrad: UTRGV ran a search for an assistant professor in philosophy. The search was successful. Changes in the core can affect the department and should not affect any one individual faculty.Report

Dr Rava
Dr Rava
5 years ago

To k: The merger did not affect the Core because UTRGV took UTPA’s version of the core. Numbers might have changed but not courses. The courses cut in philosophy are not equivalent to the ones that are still included. Check maybe the registrars office to get an understanding of their content.Report