BOSTON Harvard University's faculty will meet November 14 to consider whether the undergraduate curriculum should be changed to emphasize science, religion, and history.
The proposed changes, drawn up by the school's Task Force on General Education, were distributed to the faculty yesterday and outline what a Harvard education could look like for the 6,613 undergraduate students in years to come.
Harvard, the nation's oldest college, is producing leaders for America and the world, an English professor and co-chairman of the task force, Louis Menand, said, and needs a program of study that helps them think critically and understand how the world works.
"A vast number of students are going to be doing things outside the academy," Mr. Menand said in a telephone interview. He also said the emphasis on religion will be novel among the modern Ivy League colleges.
The core curriculum sets out a series of classes all students must complete to receive a degree. Harvard last overhauled its core curriculum in 1978 and began the current review in 2002.
The task force wanted the curriculum to give students a wide range of analytical tools and at the same time wanted the undergraduate experience to be something more than preparation for graduate law, medical, or business programs, Mr. Menand said.
A survey of seniors showed 53% planned to become doctors or lawyers or to earn a master's of business administration.
Seven American presidents have attended Harvard, as did six current members of the Supreme Court and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.
The proposed curriculum requires students to take a course in American history and one in the history of another country. Students also would be required to take two science courses and one course each in ethics, cultural traditions, and change and ethics.
Mr. Menand said the task force wanted to emphasize religion in the undergraduate education because it touches so many parts of contemporary life. Both American politics and the country's relationship with other nations around the world are influenced by religion, he said.
"Religion is a fact of 21st-century life," the report says. "When they get to college, students often struggle to sort out the relationship between their own beliefs and practices, the different beliefs and practices of fellow students, and the profoundly secular and intellectual world of the academy itself."
According to the report, 94% of Harvard students say they discuss religion and 71% attend religious services.
The current curriculum review began in 2002 and led to great debate and little agreement on campus. Disputes about how to proceed deadlocked the process until the then-dean of the faculty of arts and sciences, William Kirby, created the task force that issued the proposals made yesterday.
Mr. Kirby resigned earlier this year after disagreements with President Lawrence Summers, who stepped down himself in February, as Harvard's undergraduate faculty was preparing to express its lack of confidence in his leadership for the second time in two years.
A former president, Derek Bok, is serving as interim president of Harvard, in Cambridge, Mass.