06/20/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

George Washington University Cuts Foreign Language Requirement

In a surprising move, George Washington University's Columbian College of Arts and Sciences has eliminated foreign language requirements from its core curriculum.

The GW Hatchet reports:

A task force commission to overhaul the current requirements has worked over the past year to create a new general education curriculum that will emphasize three learning goals: perspective, analysis and communication.

The new GCRs also entail two new necessities. Students must fulfill an oral communication requirement through a WID, major course, or general education course, and will also take an analytic course that includes either a global or cross-cultural perspective as well as one course that incorporates local and civic engagement.

GW students can satisfy the oral communication requirement by taking a foreign language, but do no have to.

Some at GW are perplexed by the change, which was the first to the school's curriculum in 20 years. Inside Higher Ed spoke with the school's director of Russian language study, Richard M. Robin, who said that the alterations actively discourage students from taking foreign languages.

IHE also reports that GW's decision may represent a larger trend in colleges:

The dispute at George Washington is notable because the overall reforms being adopted have attracted strong support, and because the change comes at a time when many foreign language faculty nationally are feeling less than secure about their fields' status within academe. While GW is not eliminating any departments, the last year has seen a number of foreign language departments eliminated (especially in German) and more departments remain in danger, especially in California. In the discussions of many of those proposals, foreign language professors have said that they fear their colleagues don't understand the role they play in a liberal education. And at GW, the debate has forced a discussion of just what one learns in introductory foreign language courses.

What do you think? Is foreign language superfluous or necessary?