Disciplines Follow Their Own Paths to Quality

Disciplines Follow Their Own Paths to Quality 1

Photographs by Silas Crews for The Chronicle

Rosaria V. Munson, a professor of classics at Swarthmore, says the discipline provides knowledge and skills that can't be gained elsewhere. But there is no nationally normed way to measure the particular kind of critical thinking that students of classics acquire.

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Photographs by Silas Crews for The Chronicle

Rosaria V. Munson, a professor of classics at Swarthmore, says the discipline provides knowledge and skills that can't be gained elsewhere. But there is no nationally normed way to measure the particular kind of critical thinking that students of classics acquire.

Like several of its peers, Villanova University's College of Engineering has recently shifted its freshman courses from theory to hands-on work. First-year students pour concrete beams and use acoustic technology to scan them for hidden cracks. They construct artificial kidneys. They design fuel-cell systems for electric cars.

A few miles away, the classics department at Swarthmore College is doing business pretty much as usual. Students there are painstakingly translating Homer,