Below you can see what they wrote about the AAL requirements.
AAL Credit Changed to be Geographically Balanced
In order to graduate, we are required to meet four “Culture and Civilizations” requirements: NOR focusing on some aspect of northern America (United States and Canada), CMP focusing on the process of comparison between and among civilizations or of the identities of groups within cultures or civilizations, EUR focusing on some aspect of European cultures or civilizations, AAL focusing the culture and civilizations of Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, and the Caribbean. That’s right, we have two requirements for Western civilizations and lump the rest of the world into an acronym for Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Until 2007 it was called “other,” but since then we have changed nothing other than the name. While the NOR requirement can be justified by our institution’s location, the emphasis on European culture over all other cultures trivializes the importance of these cultures and their global impact. For a college that claims to teach students to “engage the world,” we are falling short.
The College, therefore, should adopt the proposed recommendation of a recent petition on “We the MiddKids,” which suggests replacing the AAL and EUR requirements by requiring two courses that focus on some aspects of the cultures and civilizations of AFR (Africa), ASI (Asia), LAC (Latin America and the Caribbean), MDE (the Middle East), or EUR (Europe). In a nutshell, all other regions would be considered their own region, and you could chose to take classes in two of six geographic regions instead of separate credits for Europe and then other regions. Not only would this change better reflect the diversity of backgrounds that exist on this campus and expose students to a wider range of cultural impacts, but also it would encourage students to think beyond and question the Western-centered perspective that prevails in many circles we will encounter after graduation.”
Artwork by NOLAN ELLSWORTH
January 22nd, 2014 – Read SGA President Rachel Liddel’s article, in which she supports our proposal.
Here is a short paragraph from her article:
“Grouping Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and the Caribbean into one group while granting North America and Europe into their own categories promotes a Western-centric understanding of the world. It suggests that all non-Western thought can be aggregated because it is less important or essentially the same. This message is unacceptable.”
February 12, 214 – Read Max Kagan’s op-ed on The Campus offering a different perspective and proposing to just call AAL other.
Below is a short excerpt from his article:
“The proposed initiative would keep the NOR (North America) requirement, but eliminate AAL and instead require students to chose two regions from the following five: Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, the Middle East, and Europe. On the surface, it seems inherently logical to disaggregate the AAL region into its constituent regions, as well as to recognize the Middle East as a distinct region.
But this suggestion masks a sea change in the distribution requirements: EUR (Europe) would no longer be required. Students could graduate without ever having taken a class covering the cultural and civilizational heritage of Europe – the Western heritage that is the fount of Middlebury College.”
February 26th, 2014 – Harry Cohen also presents a different perspective in his article “In Defense of EUR”
“…During the last semester, the SGA began to consider the issue of distribution requirements. As a dutiful cabinet member whose position had little connection to academic matters, I decided it was best to keep my opinions private. Now, however, I can be more candid. While it is important that we discuss and debate the value and nature of our education, I believe that efforts to remove the Europe (EUR) requirement are misguided. Studying Europe — its history, culture, literature, languages — is essential to a liberal education. Contrary to what proponents of reform argue, European thought is, particularly with regards to our education, more important than that of other parts of the world.
I suspect that last sentence is controversial. It shouldn’t be. This is not a matter of pro-Western jingoism. Liberal education is a European invention. It is the product of centuries of thought which, aside from a crucial period in the middle ages in which Islamic scholars translated, interpreted, and resuscitated the likes of Aristotle and Plato, is uniquely Western. This is not to say that only Europeans can be liberally educated. The value of a Western education is that it is universal. Rational inquiry is not the domain of Europeans alone. The rational study of human nature transcends class, race and sex, even as it gives insight into all of those subjects. Sciences and humanities as we conceive of them today are the products of a European tradition. It is no coincidence that Nietzsche, Marx, and Freud — perhaps the greatest critics of Western thought — studied Aristotle and Plato, Hobbes and Locke, Homer and Virgil. More recent critics such as Richard Rorty and Foucault did likewise. If one seeks to criticize the West, one should study it first…”
Febuary 26th, 2014 – Check out our response to Kagan’s article
“While Kagan’s argument might seem appealing to some, it is limited in that it disregards the new global context we live in. Today’s era of globalization calls for a very different kind of education than the one the College offered 200 years ago. The world has changed, and so has Middlebury and its mission. Today, part of our institution’s mission is to ‘strive to engage students’ capacity for rigorous analysis and independent thought within a wide range of disciplines and endeavors, and to cultivate the intellectual, creative, physical, ethical, and social qualities essential for leadership in a rapidly changing global community.’ Even though Kagan is correct to point out that we were founded in European tradition, Middlebury’s current mission statement does not include ‘Europe’s intellectual tradition.’
Fortunately, Middlebury College has realized that the world we live in today calls for a new education for students who come from all over the world and who will go off to be leaders in both Western and non-Western regions, not just an education for the ‘young men from Vermont’ who will serve in the ministry.’ As we mentioned earlier, however, our curriculum still remains Eurocentric. We still have a lot of work to do to truly achieve that new mission, but changing the Cultures and Civilizations requirement is a key first step in the right direction towards a curriculum better suited for educating this new generation of global citizens.”
April 30th, 2014 – The Editorial Board of the Campus on the AAL being a No Brainer
“Some people may argue that at a certain point it is out of our hands, but that kind of thinking is nothing but a lack of motivation. When the students have done all we can to push through the bill, we can start talking to our professors. We see them every day. We are a part of their daily lives, so engaging them in discussion and constantly reminding them that we care about this is the best way to make them care about it too. If they hear enough from us, and if enough of us tell them to vote, perhaps we can make sure there is a higher turnout for this initiative than on the last one.
Popular bills such as this one have the potential to lose momentum over the summer. We at theCampus intend to do our part to make sure that does not happen. We will continue to cover the bill as it progresses through the Middlebury bureaucracy, and we will write about it again in the fall when it needs renewed support. We encourage the rest of the student body also to step up to pass the things we believe in. This is our school, and if we want to get the most out of it, we first have to invest in it ourselves.”
April 30th, 2014 – Claire Abbadi wrote another article entitled “Faculty to Vote on AAL Reform”
“Midd Included and Liddell have both been forthcoming about some of the challenges they face in order to get the faculty to pass the bill, because of some of the changes the bill may require. The most relevant of those concerns is the idea that creation of more geographic regions, specifically Oceania, would require the creation of classes and hiring of professors, an investment the College may not be ready to make.
‘I imagine there might be some concern or resistance in terms of the human capital that some faculty members might think is required to make this change,’ said Dean of the College Shirley Collado. ‘But it’s the right thing to do for the college so I am hoping we can be creative and thoughtful and we’ve done that in a variety of ways so why not do it for this.’
Despite these potential setbacks, members of Midd Included remain steadfast in their determination to push the bill through.”
November 20th, 2014 – Read our open letter to the faculty
…If Middlebury as an institution aspires to produce conscientious global citizens after their four years here, it must reconsider the structural shortcomings of its curriculum. Reforming the cultures and civilizations requirements will better prepare students to explore avenues across cultures and will add an element of academic rigor yielding graduates who are both more competitive in a global setting, and are more aware of the nuances of that setting….
We ask you to think about this issue in depth, to talk to your colleagues, administrators, and students about it, and to reflect on these conversations. We need your help to make Middlebury the institution it claims to be. You have the power to help us bring this to fruition. Middlebury has seen change in the right direction before, and with your support, we can make it happen again.