A brief history: We've combined journalism and broadcast journalism and this past summer a Committee of the Sane met to try and come up with a fresh, innovative curriculum. Lots of other schools have combined the two but left more or less separate tracks. In other words, not much change. What we've got so far looks like this. We unveiled it last week to the full department faculty. The response? Underwhelming, and in a couple of cases, critical.
Before I get into the snags, a word of our approach. We wanted to frontload law and ethics as a framework for all the journalism classes that follow. We wanted lots of multimedia experience for all students. We wanted an experiential class, anchored by Newsource. And we wanted lots of skills classes.
And now, the snags. I'll focus on two of them today because, well, I've got other things to do:
- Law & Ethics: Most programs offer the traditional Law of Mass Comm class that, as in our case, is taken near the end of a student's coursework. Some programs offer one that, instead, combines ethics and law, the tension between what as a journalist you legally can do versus what you should do. Again, we saw this as the guiding framework for all classes to follow. As you might guess, the faculty who teach mass comm law are all for innovation -- except in the case of mass comm law. Their arguments are, in part, excellent case studies in tautology. There really isn't room in the curriculum for a required ethics and law class. How will it all fall out? Stay tuned. I feel fairly strongly we need an ethics/law class and, if it gets ugly, I'm more than willing to use the nuclear option. No, not gonna reveal what that is.
- Skills Heavy: Our curriculum, as drawn, runs heavy on the skills classes and light on the "conceptual" classes (such as ethics, credibility, etc.). One senior faculty member told the room that we needed more classes with critical thinking. I asked him: "Are you saying skills classes don't include critical thinking?" He said that's not what he meant, despite it being what he said, but then again no one really listens to him anyway. The point, though, remains. With so many skills classes we're pushing the faculty to the edge to cover them and, if my math is right, we simply don't have the classroom lab space to teach them. That first semester writing class alone will eat up most of our labs for the week. It also doesn't help that for some faculty the list of classes they can't teach is far longer than the list of classes they can teach.
And we're bouncing around some interesting ways to handle some of the problems, such as online classes, such as flipped classrooms. After all, I'm paid too damn much to stand in a room watching students type. Stories should be written out of class and that time spent discussing their stuff, the problems that emerged, and what's next. Ya know ... critical thinking. (what a doofus)