Maybe It’s Time to Stop Thinking About “Turf” and Design Meaningful Gen Ed?


This article first appeared in The Teaching Professor on March 13, 2023.

To begin with a statement that will surprise absolutely no one: one of the major challenges of general education reform is turf anxiety—the concern among various departments and disciplines that a new curriculum will not adequately represent their fields to ensure class enrollments that justify their professional existence.

The particulars of this anxiety vary from institution to institution and have changed over time. Twenty-plus years ago, when I was leading my first curricular revision at a small college, part of the impetus for the conversation was the desire of STEM fields to be more effectively represented as a part of the “liberal arts.” Many members of the English department, meanwhile, voted for a curriculum that reduced the number of courses staffed solely or largely by the department. Fast-forward to 2023, and you’d be hard-pressed to find an English or history or philosophy department comfortable with giving up any gen ed requirement that ensured that nonmajors appeared on their course rosters. Many STEM fields, meanwhile, struggle to offer enough classes to satisfy their majors, let alone students looking to check a box in the graduation requirements.

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