Sunday, July 20, 2014

Curriculum Update

As I've written about before, we're merging the broadcast news with the journalism folks at Grady College and, as part of this, rewriting the journalism curriculum. A committee of the unwilling has been meeting all summer, drinking beer and discussing curriculum and drinking beer and discussing curriculum. We meet again tomorrow (Monday) for the last time. Whatever product that emerges will go to the full department faculty on August 11 (the dreaded R-word, as in Retreat).

What happens then? The full faculty will congratulate us on our unpaid summer labor and adopt the new curriculum as recommended, standing to applaud us again and again, showering us with praise and flowers and cute little bunnies.

Except, that's not gonna happen.

We have a number of, ahem, interesting faculty. Indeed, none of the insane folks served on this committee. Which means a lot of work got done, which means August 11 may turn butt ugly -- with frothing at the mouth. Finger wagging. More froth. Spittle. Posturing. Stamping of feet. Tantrums. I fully expect tantrums.

God, I hope so. More blogging material. Hell, I may live tweet the retreat.

Clearly I'm not going to provide a lot of details here before the actual faculty get to see them. We don't want any pre-frothing. But there are some interesting philosophical differences that will likely arise, once you scrape the flying froth off your face. Among them is Big Core versus Buffet. That is, do you want a huge chunk of the curriculum eaten up by classes every student has to take (think multimedia stuff). If so, you leave yourself with little flexibility, both for the students and for the curriculum. That said, aren't there bunches of stuff all journalism students need to know? Reporting and writing, multimedia, experience in a newsroom, etc.? In a buffet approach, students have a smaller core and can then pick and choose according to their interests. Do we trust students to make the right choices? Do we then have students sporting the Grady brand but with no, say, video skills? Shouldn't we really blow it all up and create something cutting edge and not so 1970s?

Remember -- the bigger the core, the less the specialization. And don't even get me started on data journalism.

Another likely question is whether we want to fully embrace the teaching hospital approach, an online newsroom (and some broadcast) built around our existing Newsource. I think most folks will say yes, but ya never know.  Are we simply preparing students for jobs that are disappearing? I think we have a reasonable way to work around that. We'll see.

The fun thing about having been on the faculty here for 23 years is I can almost predict what certain faculty will say on August 11. I may write it down on envelopes with their names and open them as people say it. Yeah, I'm that petty.

In all, I expect on August 11 the department faculty to say "Hey, good try. We appreciate all the hard work. Now, go back and do it this way instead." And that's okay. Boring, but okay. It's called faculty governance, and when it comes to curriculum (and honestly, only curriculum) the faculty, not administrators, have the final say.

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