Letter to the Editor

Letter to the Editor: Beware the ‘hidden curriculum’

I am glad that the Simpsonian chooses to report on academic issues, and I willingly gave a phone interview about the changes to the mathematics component of the competency program. However, we all need to be aware of what can be called the “hidden curriculum,” and I would not want misinformation published in the Simpsonian, especially that which is inadvertently published, to become part of the hidden curriculum. For this reason, I want to clarify some of the information that was reported in the Oct. 5 edition.

The hidden curriculum is the part of any academic program that is not found in publications such as the catalog, on-line or in handouts distributed by the registrar’s office. For instance, you can find the 300-level electives offered by the various departments to fulfill the major in the catalog, but you won’t find a list of which 300-level courses are being offered in each semester for the next few years. To plan ahead for upper-level electives, you would go to your advisor or some member of the department, so this information is part of the hidden curriculum. Similarly, the descriptions, and sometimes titles, of Senior Colloquium courses are often part of the hidden curriculum.

The hidden curriculum also includes informal advice about how professors teach and which deadlines are important to meet and which can be gotten around. Academic loopholes are also a big part of the hidden curriculum, and I will not mention any specific ones here, but I am sure you all know a few. Unfortunately, there is a good amount of incorrect information which has become an integral part of the hidden curriculum. Thus, we come to the purpose of my letter.

I would like to make it clear that a student entering Simpson with a Math ACT of 20 would NOT satisfy the mathematics competency either in the past or in the future, even though that was what was reported in The Simpsonian on Oct. 5. In the current mathematics competency and the proposed Quantitative Literacy Competency, a Math ACT of 22 is required to satisfy the requirement without having to take an additional course or exam. It was reported correctly that the level of mathematical achievement necessary for the current program and the proposed program is the same. The proposed changes make the content of the competency courses more relevant to other coursework in the Cornerstones and the majors, and it is generally believed that students will find the new requirements more interesting and useful than the current requirements.

Again, I appreciate the efforts of The Simpsonian in reporting on academic issues, and hope the staff continues in those efforts.


Dr. Martha Ellen (Murphy) Waggoner

Professor of Mathematics