Education About Asia: Online Archives

Incorporating Asia in the General Education Curriculum

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Washington State University is probably not very different from many mid-sized universities, rooted in mid-America and laboring in the midst of a curriculum reform. This article, the distillation of the experience and study of three of our general education faculty members, is submitted in the hope that it may prove useful to the hundreds of faculty in scores of similar institutions struggling with the problem of how to integrate Asia in the general education curriculum. Specifically, we have been engaged for more than a decade in revising a general education program that is the heart of undergraduate education for some fifteen thousand students. The foundation and center of this program is a two semester sequence of courses in World Civilizations required of all students. Historical in approach and interdisciplinary in content, these courses are taught by a cadre of faculty at various stages of professional development, from disciplines in the College of Liberal Arts. Instructors participate in an ongoing faculty development program: summer workshops, periodic subject matter presentations, and familiarization with multimedia techniques used to enrich instruction. In sections of approximately one hundred students, faculty members follow a curriculum of stipulated topics related to major world civilizations, employing texts and methods of evaluation of their own choosing. In this academic context, there has been from the outset a unanimous faculty agreement that Asian civilizations should occupy an important position in these courses. Our faculty, including Asian specialists and nonspecialists, seasoned instructors, and newcomers, have devised individualized instructional approaches to accomplish this. In what follows, a senior Indologist, a historian of modern China, and a Ph.D. candidate in European history with a background in Middle Eastern studies explicate important topics related to the civilization each is introducing, drawing comparisons selectively with other civilizations. There is no effort to conform to a uniform list of topics for each civilization or a standard method of comparison. We hope this article will provide useful results for other general education faculty introducing these civilizations, and that we may receive your comments and concerns about what we have to say.