Linking Secondary School Curriculum To College General Education

A new report alleges that most colleges lack a clear conception of general education-literature, composition, advanced foreign languages, math, science etc. Instead colleges offer a smorgasbord of disconnected and incoherent course requirements- see

I am concerned that there is no general education program in college for secondary schools to align their curriculum with. AP helps with curriculum alignment for the top students, but there is nothing for the rest of the students.

With the exception of the common core curriculum program, there are no major efforts to provide curricular coherence and sequencing between the senior year and postsecondary education, and the role of the senior year in high school as a forum for general education is rarely discussed. Nor has anyone proposed a conception of liberal education that relates the academic content of the secondary schools to the first two years of college. Instead, students face an “eclectic academic muddle in Grades 10–14” (Orrill, 2000) until they select a college major. In Ernest Boyer’s metaphor, postsecondary general education is the “spare room” of the university, “the domain of no one in particular” whose many functions make it useless for any one purpose (Boyer and Levine, 1981). The functional “rooms,” those inhabited by faculty, are the departmental majors.

When attention is paid to general education, two contending theories predominate. One holds that the purpose of general education is to prepare students for a specialized major; the other, that the purpose of general education serves as an antidote to specialization, vocationalism, and majors. Clark (1993) hoped that somehow the specialized interests of the faculty could be arranged in interdisciplinary forms that would provide a framework for a coherent general education, but there is little evidence that this is happening.

In sum, the high school curriculum is unmoored from the freshman and sophomore college curriculum and from any continuous vision of liberal education. Policymakers for the secondary and postsecondary schools work in separate orbits that rarely interact, and the policy focus for K–16 has been more concerned with access to postsecondary education than with the academic preparation needed to complete a postsecondary degree or certificate. Access, rather than preparation, is also the theme of many of the professionals who mediate between the high schools and the colleges: high school counselors, college recruiters, and college admissions and financial aid officers.

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