Representation and history: holes in course offerings prevent inclusive curriculum

Gustavo Setrini

As the deadlines for pre-registration and declaration of majors draw near, the minds of Lawrentians are thrust forward to the next school year and to the future beyond university. The decisions and plans made in these next weeks will potentially shape the paths of many Lawrentians toward their ultimate academic and professional goals.Well aware of the gravity of such decisions, I anxiously scoured the course catalogue for 2001-2002 this past week to plan out my courses for next year and muse over the possibilities for the many years that will follow. As I pondered what courses might best prepare me for these future years, I became frustrated with the gaping hole that I see in university course offerings, particularly the history department’s. Of the 35 courses offered by the History department, only five explicitly study regions outside of Europe and the United States, and of those 5 none deal with the history of Latin America. A course in the History of England to 1485 is offered, yet it is as though the entire Western Hemisphere, with the exception of the U.S., did not exist. Those interested in studying Latin American culture are limited to two courses, one in anthropology, and one offered for the first time next year by the Spanish department. Courses in English history are easily and validly rationalized as necessary for a meaningful study of English literature. By the same token, how can students of Latin American literature gain a genuine understanding of the works they read without studying the socio-historical contexts in which they arose?

Aside from this practical concern, the issue of representation is of highest importance in a truly liberal education. In this post-modern era, a university can no longer claim that the history of Western Europe and its expansion accurately describes the world that we inhabit. If we are to construct a justly informed view of the world, we cannot ignore the history and culture of an entire region.

However, Lawrence will not establish new courses or engage new faculty simply because it ought to. Students and faculty must demonstrate their interest in a more equitable representation of the world, and a more inclusive curriculum.

—Gustavo Setrini