Within any given group of students, one can expect to find differences along all, or most, of the following parameters: preferred learning styles (including concrete vs. abstract, sequential vs. random, introverted versus extroverted, etc.), race, gender, ethnicity, intellectual skill level (including reading, writing, speaking and listening skills), culture, family history and level of functioning, emotional development, physical or mental disability, personality, intellectual characteristics, self-esteem, knowledge, motivation, creativity, social adjustment, genetic intellectual inclinations, and maturity -- to name some of the most commonly considered candidates. To put this another way, each and every student who comes to us is unique, and, what is more, unique in a variety of ways.
We are living in an age where calls for an emphasis on diversity have become the norm. Multiple interest groups have emerged demanding special consideration and/or "equality" in the classroom. Political pressures on teachers to bear in mind this or that diversity issue has never been greater.
In one sense, it seems apparent that we should take into account individual differences of students, and that we should consider those differences when designing instruction. Yet, in another sense, given the multiplicity of differences within and among students, it seems obviously impossible to simultaneously teach to all of those differences.
No teacher is capable of taking into account or teaching to every form of diversity. At the very essence of teaching lies the dilemma of what to teach and what to leave out, what issues to place in the foreground and what issues to place in the background. As teachers, for example, we must choose between extensive coverage and deep learning.
In like manner, we cannot at one and the same time focus on gender, race, ethnicity, social class, and culture. If we place special focus on developing the musical and artistic talents of students, we cannot simultaneously place special emphasis on logical-mathematical reasoning and the development of communication skills. If we place special focus on fostering social abilities and ethical traits, we cannot also place special focus on teaching to the multiple learning preferences of students. If we put special focus on academic content (biology, geography, arithmetic, reading skills, writing skills, speaking skills, spelling, grammar...), we cannot put special focus on issues of family, personal development, and personal interests. In short, we cannot have it all in education. We cannot possibly place special emphasis on every dimension of diversity.
What can be done about this dilemma? The solution, I shall argue, is critical thinking. If we teach students to reason well through any issue, and, through this emphasis, help students become life-long learners, then, of necessity, students will acquire the tools of mind they need to deal with issues of diversity. When students become skilled and insightful evaluators of their thinking and thereby take command of their learning, they can judge how and when to take into account the variety of issues encompassed under the term "diversity." In this paper, I lay the foundation for understanding how to prepare students to deal with issues arising out of human diversity by learning how to thinking critically through such issues. But before I do, I must first dispel a few common myths about critical thinking.
The most common myth is that most teachers have a good understanding of critical thinking, that they think critically themselves, and that they know how to teach for it.
Yet in a study of 38 public universities and 28 private colleges in California (conducted for the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing), it was found that prospective teachers were neither being taught how to think critically nor how to cultivate critical thinking in their students. The study revealed that most professors of education:
- are unable to give an elaborated articulation of their concept of critical thinking
- cannot provide plausible examples of how they foster critical thinking in the classroom
- are not able to name specific critical thinking skills they think are important for students to learn
- are not able to plausibly explain how to reconcile covering content with fostering critical thinking
- do not consider reasoning as a significant focus of critical thinking
- do not think of reasoning within disciplines as a major focus of instruction
- cannot specify basic structures essential to the analysis of reasoning
- cannot give an intelligible explanation of basic abilities either in critical thinking or in reasoning
- do not understand the connection of critical thinking to intellectual standards
- are not able to clarify major intellectual criteria and standards
- inadvertently confuse the active involvement of students in classroom activities with critical thinking in those activities
- do not distinguish the psychological dimension of thought from the intellectual dimension
- have had no involvement in research into critical thinking and have not attended any conferences on the subject
- are unable to name a particular theory or theorist that has shaped their concept of critical thinking.
The study concluded that most teachers today share misconceptions about critical thinking similar to those of their professors. There is no simple, short-term method for displacing these misconceptions. The solution I am suggesting requires long-term committed staff development, and hence is no quick-fix panacea.
All of us face a world that is becoming increasingly more complex, a world in which the decisions we make can well have significant long-term implications both for ourselves and for those who follow us. If we can successfully prepare students for that world, we will, by implication, prepare them for the diversities intrinsic to it. How can we do this? How can we teach in such a way that students learn to reason well through issues embodied in change, complexity, interdependence, and "diversity?”
What we must do is radically change how we understand "content" and what learning it entails. We must shift our paradigm of education to these key foundations:
- All content must be "reasoned through" to be learned.
- All reasoning involves predictable parts or elements.
- All elements of high quality reasoning presuppose universal intellectual standards.
- The primary barrier to good reasoning is our native egocentrism.
Let me explain. That which we typically consider "content" is, in fact, information that has been thought through and conceptualized, and hence requires thought to be understood. The content of history is historical thinking. The content of biology is biological thinking. The content of math is mathematical thinking. The content of multiculturalism is multicultural thinking. In any textbook we thus find the reasoning of someone who has thought through a set of issues or problems within a subject area.
Learning history is not to be understood as memorizing someone else’s thinking. If students are studying history, for example, we should expect them to understand the goals and purposes of history, the problems historians think through, and the information and concepts they use to address those problems. We should expect them to understand the conclusions historians come to as they reason through issues.
We want them to see things from a historical point of view. When students have done so with skill and understanding, they have learned the content of history. For content to be meaningful and useful to them, they must reason it through themselves. They must learn, not merely to read and remember the ideas and thoughts of others, but to formulate questions within the subject themselves, reason through those questions themselves, and come up with logical answers to those questions themselves.
Why? Because every learner must learn for themselves, and to learn one must think for themselves, and to think must reason. We cannot crawl into students’ minds and learn for them. We cannot think for them or "give" them reasoning abilities. The only way for them to develop reasoning abilities is through routine engagement in challenging reasoning tasks. How, then, do we develop these powerful and universally essential skills of mind?
First, we must recognize universal structures of thought. Whenever we think (and whatever we are thinking about), we think for a purpose, within a point of view, based on assumptions leading to implications and consequences. We use data, facts, and experiences to make inferences and judgments based on concepts and theories in attempting to answer a question, solve a problem, or resolve an issue. In other words, there are eight essential structures in reasoning. To the extent that students fail to use those structures in reasoning through our content, they fail to learn. For elaboration of the elements of reasoning, see the Miniature Guide to the Foundations of Analytic Thinking.
Second, we must recognize the universal standards for thought. Whenever we want to think well through some matter at hand (including "dimensions of diversity), we must not only "monitor" eight structures, we must also assess our use of them with key intellectual standards, as follows: "Am I being clear in my thinking? Am I being accurate? Do I need to be more precise? Am I sticking to the issue (relevance)? Am I dealing with the complexities inherent in the question (depth)? Do I need to consider another point of view (breadth)? Am I thinking logically? Am I thinking in a way that is justifiable or fair?
No matter what issue one is reasoning through, the parts of thinking embedded in the reasoning and the intellectual standards that determine the quality of that reasoning apply. They apply independent of whether one is thinking about culture, ethnicity, race, social class, gender, intellectual development, emotional development, special disabilities, special interests, personality, social adjustment, self-esteem, knowledge, maturity, motivation, degree of conformity to peer group, or creativity. They apply, in short, to all issues and questions involving diversity. They suggest a common approach not only to all such issues, but indeed to all human problems and concerns.
Egocentrism and Sociocentrism
Finally, and most importantly, the major barrier to our ability to reason well through diversity issues is our native egocentrism (and sociocentrism). We naturally operate within the world from our own perspective, and that perspective is often oriented toward self-serving interests. Thus, if to get what we want we must discriminate against other people, our egocentric viewpoint easily enables us to rationalize or justify our actions.
Due to our egocentric mode of thinking, which begins at birth, we come to believe that whatever we believe is true because we believe it. Moreover, we are creatures of mental habit and naturally defend what we already believe. These rigid habits of thought keep us from seeing things from differing perspectives, leading to prejudice in favor of people or groups whose ideas are like our own and against those whose ideas are unlike our own (or who seem different from us in some way).
Thus, humans are not only naturally egocentric but sociocentric as well. We tend to be clannish, and to believe that the groups we belong to are right, privileged, special. Through systematic self-deception we maintain our rigid modes of thinking, avoid recognition of our biases, and treat people and groups without due consideration and respect, even when there is ready evidence to refute our point of view.
It is therefore my contention that any sound diversity curriculum must explicitly foster understanding of the human mind and its native prejudicial tendencies. In other words, if we are attempting to help students learn to treat people from groups different from their own as equals, we must teach them to be aware of, and to guard against, their native egocentric and sociocentric tendencies. Otherwise these very tendencies will keep students from reasoning well through diversity issues.
To illustrate the conception I am arguing for, let me take a couple of issues arising out of "diversity" and demonstrate how critical thinking lays the basis for a sound approach to those issues.
Multiculturalism, Gender Issues, and Critical Thinking
Multiculturalism, for example, emphasizes the importance of respecting all cultures and their unique traditions. An emphasis on gender issues, on the other hand, focuses on the degree to which women have been exploited and oppressed. Of course, approaches to diversity sometimes conflict. For instance, the exploitation and oppression of women usually occurs with the blessing of this or that cultural tradition. What, then, are we to do when it is part of a cultural tradition to oppress some given group? To "respect" the culture seems irreconcilable with critiquing its "oppression. How are we to reconcile these contradictory emphases in two different "diversity" movements? This can only be done through critical thinking. A critical thinking approach reconciles appropriate multicultural thinking on the one hand with fair-minded feminist thinking on the other.
With critical thinking at the foundation of instruction, neither multiculturalism nor feminism are treated as exceptions to the evaluative force of critical thought. With respect to multiculturalism there is an emphasis on the critical assessment of cultural traditions (not all cultural traditions are to be respected simply because they are cultural traditions). With respect to gender issues, not all "feminist" thinking is on the same level of quality. There are contradictions between different brands of feminism-- radical feminism vs. traditional feminism for example. There are also different levels of understanding and insight among different feminist thinkers. In short, merely because one thinks within a feminist or a multicultural point of view does not guarantee that the reasoning one does is clear, accurate, precise, relevant, deep, open-minded, logical and fair.
In the approach I am recommending, students would learn to recognize when a multicultural or feminist perspective is relevant to the issue at hand. They might be assigned tasks requiring them to empathize with both cultural and feminist perspectives and to critically assess thinking within both perspectives. These ends not only integrate the emphasis on cultural and feminist perspectives with historical issues, social issues, ethical issues, political issues, and personal perspectives, they also introduce a necessary emphasis on reading, writing, and speaking skills essential to reasoning through these issues.
Race, Religion, Physical Disability and Critical Thinking
An emphasis on race, religious differences, or physical disabilities usually focuses on the importance of treating people who seem different from us equally and fairly. The basic idea is that every person has a right to be treated without prejudice, and that people should not be discriminated against because of race, religion, or physical disability.
Again, neither of these modes of thinking should be treated as an exception to the evaluative force of critical thought. Merely because one makes a demand based on the purported needs or rights of a certain race or religion or in speaking for persons with a particular physical disability does not guarantee that the reasoning one does is clear, accurate, precise, relevant, deep, open-minded, logical and fair. Moreover, the conflicting demands of multiple groups must be reasoned through and critically assessed.
It is important that students come to understand that, because we are all naturally prejudiced in favor of people who appear to be similar to us, and consequently against people who appear to be different from us, we must consistently guard against such prejudice. Put another way, students must learn to recognize when their natural tendency to prejudge stands in the way of their ability to empathize with someone from another race, religion, or with someone who has a particular disability.
Critical thinking helps students realize that just as "prejudice against" certain people or groups is problematic, "prejudice for" certain groups also creates problems. If we believe, for example, that our race is superior to other races, we fail to recognize that within "our groups" are people who by any reasonable standards would be considered "black-hearted villains," people who routinely manipulate and oppress other people, people who care only for themselves and who, consequently, have no concern for the manner in which their actions influence or harm others.
Through critical thinking, students learn that the reasoning of all groups, including that of our "own" groups, must be critically analyzed and assessed for soundness and justifiability.
The importance of teaching students to reason through complex issues of diversity cannot be underestimated. Yet the best approach to a well-thought-through diversity curriculum is not one that results in further fragmentation along the lines of multiple "diversities." The curriculum cannot successfully jump from race to multiculturalism to feminism to gender issues to learning styles to student preferences to musical and artistic talent to mathematical-logical skills to this and that and this and that and this.
Critical thinking makes an integrated approach to instruction possible. The focus is on developing reasoning abilities in general, on teaching students how to evaluate any form of reasoning, whether their own or someone else’s, whether it is articulated verbally or expressed in written form. Students learn to think through complex issues in a complex way within any domain.
They become intellectually responsible in their approach to thinking through problems and issues, by learning, for example, to take into account all relevant viewpoints whether or not those viewpoints agree with their own or the viewpoints of the groups to which they belong. They realize when an intellectual task involves attention to diversity. They recognize when they are being prejudiced against a person or a group, and they actively work to eliminate their native prejudicial tendencies. Only then can students develop the intellectual integrity vital to reasoning well through issues of diversity.
In short, through critical thinking we place all instruction, including its diversity components, on firm foundation so that improving students’ reasoning abilities, as well as their abilities to evaluate the reasoning of others, becomes the primary focus. Through this integrative approach to instruction, students develop the intellectual tools necessary for understanding and considering individual and group differences, for learning in any subject, for reasoning through any problem in any context, indeed for becoming life-long learners.
Elder, L. (2004).
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We seem to be living in a moment in the United States when there's some profit to be had from casting cultural beliefs, values, and knowledges into strictly oppositional frames. So, even though I believe we are all right now suffering from some dire consequences of that habit, let me begin, almost in mimicry, to address the issue of cultural analysis by way of a kind of Manichean scenario.
On the one hand, there are some people out there who still believe that we can have access to some fundamental and obvious reality, an empirical natural world that is theoretically open to our unmediated knowledge if only we persevere long enough. But, they believe, the essential clarity of such a reality is then muddied and confused by all the things that we humans do, socially and culturally. For some of them, the core reality even includes a "human nature," too, one that would shine through all the varieties and differences wrought by human cultures, upbringings, histories.
On the other hand, there are some others who think that those who cling to the first view of the world are just about as quaint as flat-earthers. These others--and I'd have to admit I'm a sympathiser--would claim that to think that way is, paradoxically, unrealistic. On the contrary, knowledge of our reality, or of the material world in which we live, is not ever separable from, but indeed is absolutely dependent upon, the cultures we make and have made.
This opposition between two ways of conceiving of the world in which we live is an old one, obviously--perhaps even older than the putative clash of Christian and Islamic civilizations that we're currently hearing a lot about. But it's one that we appear to be stuck with when we try to talk about culture and cultural analysis in the modern American university. And, by and large, it seems that one side currently has all the cards. The predominant ideology of universities and university disciplines in our day tends to reflect the first position and rewards its faith in the perfectibility of our knowledge of some objective reality. Other ways of exploring reality and our knowledge of reality often get lost in the shuffle--especially when it comes to handing out whatever benefits and rewards the university has to offer.
And yet, the other side never quite goes away. Indeed, I'd say that its alternative ways of exploring reality and knowledge have actually made some headway in the last little while. Cultural analysis is, in fact, beginning to provide innovative and satisfying ways of thinking through the complex interrelations of culture and what I prefer to call the material (rather than the natural) world. The new ways of exploring reality that cultural analysis constitutes indeed begin by taking seriously precisely the complexity of forces and processes for which culture is, so to speak, the clearing house. The simplest way of summarizing what cultural analysis assumes is to say that the process whereby culture inflects the material world is actually the same process as that by which the material world shapes culture and our experience. The two processes are indissoluble to the point that they are the same process.
In that regard, I have to disagree somewhat with Peter Stearns's suggestion in his lead article that the core of cultural analysis is going to be found in the concept of causation--how does culture affect or effect, produce or modulate experience and knowledge, etc. I'd argue that a linear, one-way concept of causation doesn't have much to say to cultural analysis at this point. Or rather, it's no longer the predominant or most powerful mode of explanation for cultural analysis. The gist of cultural analysis at its best is, indeed, the establishment of an idea of causality that is something akin to what I suggested above: a dialectical, multivalent process.
Indeed, I'd say that this central recognition was in many ways the nub of the so-called "cultural turn" that was undertaken, mostly in the last three decades of the twentieth century, by the most progressive research in many disciplines (from geography to English, history to sociology, and so on). This "turn" was never simply a matter of the traditional disciplines suddenly waking up to that troublesome thing, "culture," and then adding it to a list of topics that have to be dealt with. Rather, the new (in some cases, renewed) attention to culture resulted from and also brought about new ways of thinking, new assumptions and hypotheses about the old and stale nature/nurture doublet.
Even if it's true that the progress of the cultural turn in many disciplines has by now slowed down somewhat, it would be wrong to think of that as the end of a journey, and still less as a wasted journey. Far from landing us up in exhaustion or in some pointless cul-de-sac, the turn has actually affected each of those disciplines so deeply that each of them has now to deal with fundamentally different assumptions, new descriptions, and new ways of conceptualizing the world: in short, different approaches to exploring reality. In addition, as another outcrop of the same turn, we've also seen the rise of cultural studies as a relatively discrete field.
Cultural studies and critical thinking
So, things have changed quite a bit. But, at the same time, it's true that the new conditions in those disciplines affected by the cultural turn have still not translated into strong action in terms of pedagogy, and current modes of research have been slow to take on curricular form.
In one way this shouldn't surprise any of us. It always seems to take an unconscionably long time for the results of developments in the disciplines to trickle down the curricular hill. This is a problem, it should be said, which affects curricular development far beyond the present issue of cultural analysis, and is one that in my view even constitutes a kind of continual structural crisis in higher education. That is, structurally, individual disciplines are still literally paid to make their presence felt in general education and university education programs, and their tendency is nearly always to plant their flag in its oldest, most recognizable, and safest colors. In addition to that, American universities seem structurally unable or unwilling to find ways (a few brave experiments excepted) to have their most exciting and accomplished intellectuals teach the youngest students and the most basic classes.
These are issues that administrators and faculty probably need to take up sooner rather than later at the most general level, as well as in relation to the issue we're discussing here.
But it's also the case that necessary kinds of adjustment seem to become harder to make when the issues involve relatively critical forms of research and pedagogy, such as cultural analysis. My suspicion is that this is because such projects tend to bring to the fore once more something that has gradually disappeared from American universities' sense of themselves. That is, nearly every university mission statement calls for critical thinking in some guise or other; and the injunction is often accompanied by an appeal to the ideal of an informed citizenry in a democracy (or words to that effect). These are ideals that, unhappily, seem to have taken a back seat in the last decades.
But the apparent reluctance to do so is probably not entirely a matter of the structural habits of interaction in the university, nor simply a matter of a waning commitment to critical thinking. There is, on a more mundane level, a chronic and generic kind of suspicion of issues to do with culture, so the reluctance I'm talking about is also specific to views of cultural analysis. I'd guess in the end that this is because cultural analysis just isn't safe and sanitary. It brings into question other ways of seeing and knowing that are generally untroubled about their own importance and power. Equally, cultural analysis is a kind of upstart in the generally well-ordered garden of the disciplines. It proposes an intellectual and conceptual agenda that is not to be found in what we can call the "default mode" of each of the individual disciplines.
Cultural analysis and science
Because of these factors, cultural analysis (especially in its cultural studies manifestations) often gets branded as the outlaw in various ways. In particular, cultural analysis is, as Peter Stearns has pointed out in his opening article, often attacked for the alleged crime of relativism, and then kicked again for its aggressive habit of critique. Stearns suggests that one of the places where tensions arise most rapidly is in "the interaction between cultural analysis and science." And perhaps exactly because the tension there is often so acute, that's a good place to try to defend cultural analysis against the charges levelled at it--and perhaps also to begin to suggest something concrete about the benefits of cultural analysis.
The ambition of cultural analysis would never be (or rather, should never be) to comprehensively trash science, nor simply to try to relativize its values. Rather, the first ambition needs to be to produce something like a description of the way in which scientific knowledge comes to be located, understood, and valued in the cultures we inhabit. It doesn't do, obviously, to say that scientific discourse is no more "true" or explanatory than any other discourses (the relativist path). Nor does it do to simply fling out, in the spirit of some vague radicalism, scarifying indictments of science's "ideological complicity" (the path of critique).
What does make sense, however, is to expect our students to know something about some of the following things: How was the idea of science born? What forms of ratiocination has it developed? Who has and has had access to scientific knowledge and under what circumstances? What is the relation of scientific knowledge to philosophical issues of truth? How does science turn into technology and even come to be confused with it? How do we come to have such faith in scientific knowledge and trust in its attendant products and technologies? Are the conditions for such faith and trust universal and timeless, or do they change? What specific interests--economic, political, ideological--are involved in maintaining our faith and trust in science and technology? And so on.
Each question implies in one way or another that science is not some solid, laser-like beam making its way boldly toward the truth before getting deflected by the fog of culture. Rather, the questions suggest, science is already organically and constitutionally part of culture. Science is produced and defined within culture, is deployed and modified by it, and can therefore be understood only within it and its terms. The important point here is that such a view of science is not available, by and large, from within science itself, nor is it comprehensively available from the individual disciplines. It's only available from within some other project like cultural studies, or cultural analysis more generally.
Such an understanding is not, of course, especially welcome in many disciplines, and is probably not exactly what scientists want to hear either. But part of the task of cultural analysis has to be to explain why exactly that's the case. Why the reluctance to hear? What actually warrants the certainties and the confidence that support the predominant views of reality and knowledge? Cultural analysis would want to try to locate those certainties within the realm of culture and experience as that realm arises from particular material circumstances, and to be able to offer as knowledge a description of the location and genesis of those supposed veracities and assumptions. In that sense, cultural analysis must always cling to its controversial role of ‘critique.' And here I don't mean critique in the threatening way it's often heard. I mean, rather, something like what we used to call constructive criticism. By its very nature, cultural analysis is always going to include in its project a questioning and investigation of the forms of disciplinary knowledge.
My list of the questions that might arise when cultural analysis meets science isn't meant to be an exhaustive one (though it does reflect what I personally think ought to be some priorities). The list suggests, at a minimum, that there are plenty of things to know and to describe about science that are not themselves "science." That minimum is something I think we should expect our students to understand (and our faculty and administrative colleagues to support) as a genuine educational goal.
And lest all that seem overly obvious, it might be instructive to ask oneself where in today's curricula around the country will we find that minimum standard rigorously attended to? The answer is, I'd say, that at best we find such issues scattered across the syllabi of the individual disciplines, or maybe in one or two courses offered in the history of science, or maybe in the curriculum of a cultural studies program. And many of these would be, in any case, only graduate level classes. There is, by and large, very little out there that would suggest to undergraduate students that the ways of exploring reality that I've been pointing to here are intellectually coherent and part of what's necessary for today's educated citizenry.
Part of the curricular structure
But the drift of my argument here implies that what's needed is not just a general education project in cultural analysis, but also a recognition that cultural analysis is ready to take its place more solidly in the undergraduate curriculum as a whole. And this would have to be a project that ran the risk of at least appearing to challenge the vested interests of specific disciplines.
Any such project is difficult to initiate and carry through without support and resources from administrations. There's no need to belabor that point here, evidently. But for those of us on the ground, as it were, such a project also means elaborating the necessary and appropriate curricula and syllabi. I've spent a good proportion of my career teaching cultural studies in a variety of contexts, and now in the doctoral program at George Mason. Perhaps predictably, I'm of the view that cultural studies programs are ideally situated to be at least the launching pad for such a project. Cultural studies programs do already have some of the frameworks in place, even at the undergraduate level in some instances, to become part of a broader project of cultural analysis and, indeed, to guide it.
An important flaw
Cultural studies does have its problems, of course, as people both inside and outside the field would be quick to point out. One of the largest, in my view, is an apparent reluctance on the part of many of the field's most prominent scholars--the older generation of cultural studies, if you will---to be beholden to any overarching explanatory discourse, theoretical frame, or methodological approach. One result of this has been a kind of eclecticism in cultural studies work that makes it hard to pin down what exactly a specifically cultural studies approach might really be. This is an important flaw, obviously. Among other things, it means that cultural studies has few grounds on which to reproduce itself in its students, graduate or undergraduate--and this is clearly a problem in the context of the increasing institutionalization of the field.
On the other hand, precisely because cultural studies is becoming more and more respectable and established in the university, it is beginning to forge much more credible curricula. At the risk of promoting my own interests, I'd say that the doctoral program in cultural studies where I teach at George Mason University is something of a model. The curriculum there reflects many of the arguments I have been making: Most importantly, in my opinion, it takes a specific view of the complex relation of culture and the material world; it takes advantage of the way that other disciplines have changed and been affected by the cultural turn; it discourages the habits of relativism and wayward critique that often mar the field; and it maintains, at the same time, a critical view of the forms of knowledge of other disciplines.
There are other elements to the program that would be worth mentioning, if I had more space. But one interesting potential it has, it seems to me, is that although it is of course a graduate program, many of its structural strengths and component parts could readily be adapted to an undergraduate program and to general education in particular. Indeed, this process has already been initiated, with the program contributing an undergraduate course on "Culture and Globalization" to the university's incipient global affairs major.
There's much more that could be done, of course. But I think the important point is that cultural studies programs (many of them, it should be recalled, still fledgling enterprises) have the potential to mature and venture further into the undergraduate arena. On the basis of that assumption, I'd want to suggest that cultural studies could still be--indeed, probably should still be--seen as the best hope for the expansion of cultural analysis in the university.
Paul Smith is professor of cultural studies at George Mason University.
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