18 may. 2007

There is a structural problem with the Spanish major. If you look at the structure of the English major at KU, there are 15 hours of literature, plus another 15 hours of (mostly) literature / or creative writing for the creative writing track. The English major is a major in English and American Literature (plus the actual creation of works of literature for CW majors.)

The Spanish major is 29 hours. (Most courses are 3 hours.) There are four literature courses required, for a grand total of 12 hours. The rest is taken up with language and culture courses.

The typical English major is a kid who likes to read and write. So we can assume that in addition to the course work, this student will have read some extra literature. CW courses might even require some additional reading.

The Spanish major is someone who thinks Spanish is useful in some way. There is no presumption that there is an interest in literature. The 12 hours are not enough to provide a solid foundation in literature, in the absence of intrinsic interest. However, they are enough to foster resentment among some students. So many literature classes! This student will not read outside of class, or have particularly literary interests in the native language (English.) After all, students who really like literature would logically be English majors.

What about culture? Linguistics. Aren't those valid areas of study too? Well, yes and no. The English major already knows a lot about the culture of a large section of the English speaking world. If she is an Anglophile she will learn about England as well as the US. And the English major tends to be a fluent speaker of English!

Cultural knowledge and linguistic competence are simply assumed, whereas for the Spanish major they are the objects of study. They often aren't approached that seriously. Culture courses do not require as much reading, in many cases.

As for linguistics itself, there is a little bit of linguistics added on to the last stages of the major, but not enough critical mass so that the students really understand linguistics. Most of the attention is geared toward the acquisition of the language.

So the problem is that the major lacks a serious core. There is simultaneously *too much* and not enough literature. Too much attention to the acquisition of the language, but a low standard of acquisition in the end.

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