In the Fall of 1999, two years after the passage of “infusion skills” as a requirement in General Education courses (see Infusion Skills), I was called to account by an administrator at Program Review for not infusing these skills properly into the psychology curriculum.
Notwithstanding that those in the Behavioral Sciences Department who voted for infusion skills had assured the rest of us that the “infusion police” would never hover over our heads, they had arrived.
I wrote the accompanying memo to the Department in protest (names are disguised by pseudonyms).
The reader will note that, fully two years before the terrorist toppling of the World Trade Center, I ask my Department colleagues in this memo:
Are you teaching awareness and appreciation of, and respect for, the cultural and ethnic diversity represented by Taliban oppression of women?
Feb. 5, 1999
They laughed. They scoffed. They snickered. Those who voted for “infusion skills” argued it would never happen. Yet in one more step devolving Grossmont College into what a member of our Department calls “Grossmont College High,” the Infusion Police have arrived.
Those who have been with us since the Fall of 1997 will recall how some of our Dept. colleagues enthusiastically voted for “infusion skills,” those behaviors now required “to be infused in each course in the Associate Degree G.E. package” (quotes are from a memo to Chairs and Coordinators dated Oct. 10, 1997). Since the proposal passed, “departments will be asked to develop a description of ways in which they will be integrating the skills in each of their G.E. courses for review by the G.E. Committee.”
Thanks to that vote, you and I are now mandated not only to “infuse” into our teaching such skills as critical thinking, writing, and reading, but also—
Those of you who voted yes assured us that the infusion skills of “attending, speaking, and listening” would surely be satisfied by merely calling on students in class. How, incidentally, are you assuring that every student in your classes receives this training? Are you assessing to ensure that the skills (attending, speaking, listening) are acquired?
As I recall, Jose, visiting our Dept. meeting to defend infusion skills, assured us that this included such skills demanded by business as arriving on time. Merely as a matter of curiosity, I cannot resist asking: How are you assuring that your students learn and improve these skills, iterated in the memo by such behaviors as “coming to class/work on time, working beyond the minimum levels of effort, meeting deadlines, doing one's own work?” Do you teach trustworthiness, reverence, sincerity, and kindness as well?
I distinctly recall Jose at our meeting assuring us that “appreciation” merely meant “awareness,” arguing that a music “appreciation” course surely teaches merely music “awareness.” Though this leaves one mystified as to why the skill is called “awareness/appreciation of diversity”—when “appreciation” equals “awareness” and hence this reads as the semantically doubled “awareness/awareness of diversity”—several in our Dept. vigorously championed this infusion skill. Because this skill is defined in the memo as “sensitivity to, appreciation of, and respect for diversity of all kinds, including ethnic, cultural, physical, and gender,” I cannot help but ask: When did you last ask your students to “appreciate” and “respect” white supremacy, Taliban male domination of females, or Nazi culture? Incidentally, do you assess your students' acquisition of this skill?
I remain curious as to how English, Speech Communication, Art, or Music instructors teach “mathematical concepts and skills to investigate and analyze problems.” Those who voted in favor of infusion skills assured us the skills wouldn't be required in all cases. Surely, they said, those who make decisions will be flexible.
How are you infusing “the ability to function effectively within groups” into your curriculum? Do you train this skill directly, by coaching, modeling, and rehearsal? How do you assess your students' acquisition of this skill?
How often do you train your students in “those skills and attitudes which promote, maintain, and foster lifestyle choices in keeping with a health/wellness model?” Would we have expected Bertrand Russell or Albert Einstein to teach their students to avoid cigarette and cigar smoking? Oh, that's right. We're merely a “junior” college (those of you who know me know that I've never believed in teaching differently than I would at a four-year institution nor do I regard my students as “junior” college students). Dare I reveal to my students that I eat donuts? Have you been assessing these skills after you train your students in them?
If you teach the introductory course in your discipline, have you been training your students in C++? Do you test them on the difference between RAM and ROM?
Okay. I exaggerated. Of the last four skills, we only have to teach two. Pick your favorites. Then ask Dance, Sculpture, and Foreign Language instructors to do the same.
Larry has done his best at soft-shoeing the Infusion two-step before committees to get approval of his new Abnormal Psychology course. Those of you who attended our appearance before the Program Review Committee will recall my response to a question which, by some cosmic irony, I was assigned. Having now tossed the question, I recall it from memory as along the lines of, “Since the Academic Senate has endorsed Infusion Skills, are the Psychology instructors assigning writing to their students in Introductory Psychology beyond that required by essay questions on exams?” I answered “No.” With not a breath's hesitation and in firm staccato, an administrator replied, “In this case, a 'no' will not do.”
Just two instances of the Infusion Police, not imagined but altogether too real.
Ponder this for an afternoon. Then review the remaining infusion skills and give yourself an infusion check-up. Take two infusion capsules and a well-earned infusion rest. In the meantime, I wish you health and wellness in all your infusion endeavors.