San Francisco State University adds sustainability to general education requirements

Freshman composition, world civilization, college algebra… and, now, intro to sustainability? Yep, the core curriculum at San Francisco State University will look something like that in a couple of years, as the university has approved the addition of three units of environmentally-themed coursework to its general education requirements.

This is a bit of a different move for a university: thus far, adding “green” coursework has generally involved new programs in focused areas such as sustainable agriculture and renewable energy, or interdisciplinary environmental studies programs. SF State’s chair of environmental studies, Carlos Davis, thinks that sustainability belongs among core coursework because it, like more traditional classes, aims to prepare students to function in and engage with the challenges they’ll face as professionals and citizens:

Sustainability is one of the key issues facing humanity in the 21st century and citizens of the world need to understand these issues because we are going to be making very important decisions that will affect ourselves and our future,” he said. “It’s hard to overstate how important these issues are.

Students will have a choice of classes that fulfill this requirement: faculty committees are already looking at existing courses that might work. I’d love to see courses designed within student majors that fulfill this requirement… as someone who’s taught a lot of general education courses to traditional-aged students, I think this would be the way to get past the “I won’t ever have to use this in real life” claims that teachers frequently hear from their freshmen and sophomores.

No doubt, some will claim this is a classic case of lefty indoctrination by radical academics… it strikes me as eminently practical, though, particularly as the private sector struggles with environmental challenges.

What do you think, though? Smart move by SFSU? A clear-cut case of political correctness? Something else? Let us know…


Image credit: prayitno at Flickr under a Creative Commons license