The International Curriculum

A Look at the First Two Hundred Years of Dickinson College's International Programs

by Dan Hixon and Rachel Lebov

What is meant by International Curriculum? What affect, if any, does it have on the way Dickinson College has developed? International Curriculum is the courses that either teach a language other than one's own, or examines the culture of another country.  Dickinson has had a long history of International Curriculum. From the very beginning to the present day, there has always been an emphasis on foreign studies.

Before there was a Dickinson College, there was a Sunday School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania that taught people the classic languages of Latin and Greek.1 It is believed that even before 1751 there was a learned Presbyterian pastor who taught people Latin and Greek. There was also a grammar school in Carlisle that taught boys from ages ten to their teens before the College existed. The school taught Latin, Greek, and possibly Mathematics, as well as Geography, surveying/navigation, logic, criticism, philosophy and, of course, "moral philosophy" since it was run by the Presbyterian Church.

On September 9, 1783, Dickinson College was given its charter. Instead of closing the grammar school, Dickinson absorbed it into itself, the Trustees of the grammar school joining with the trustees of the College to form a joint board. The two schools stayed together until 1912, when declining enrollment and costs for the College to close its preparatory school.2

As far back as we can read in the Dickinson College Catalogue, Latin and Greek were required for admission and for study. When a student applied to Dickinson College, he 3 was tested on his proficiency of both Greek and Latin as well as other courses such as Mathematics and Literature.  By far, the classical languages were most emphasized. From 1783 when the College opened, to the school year of 1836-7, Greek and Latin were the only two languages4 offered regularly at Dickinson College. These two languages were the basis of the education.  If someone wanted to go on to be a minister, knowing Greek and Latin would help him with the studying of the Bible.

Until the school year of 1814-1815, Latin and Greek had no other rival on the campus. If someone was to take another language, it was only Hebrew and even that was still taken accompanying either of the other languages. Although there was no immediate change, 1814-1815 was the beginning of the end of the singularity Latin and Greek. It was in this year that a young Claudius Berard arrived on campus and assumed his role at the College, following Benjamin Rush's ideas of a "useful education" by offered an advertised course of instruction in French. He was to be the first Professor of Modern Languages.5

But it was not until the year of 1837-8 that the options of taking foreign languages were mentioned in the Catalogue of the College. The catalogue said that Juniors and Seniors could take French, Spanish or Italian. It never mentioned who was the professor of Modern Languages. In 1842-3 the College went from teaching six languages to seven, adding German to the growing list.6 This growth was short lived, though, because it was shortly thereafter that the wind started blow in the opposite direction.  In 1845-6 Spanish, Italian and German are taught, but now at an extra charge of three dollars. French on the other hand was integrated into the regular course load for that year7. The very next year, Italian and Spanish were completely removed from the curriculum. Juniors could substitute either German or French for Greek, or seniors could substitute either of them for Mathematics8.

The College, in a matter of ten years, went from offering three languages to offering seven and then down to four languages. Finally in 1849-1850, the College required a language other Greek or Latin. French and German became required for Juniors and Seniors respectively. Now that the languages had become required, there needed to be something done with the professorship. It was in this year that the position of a Modern Languages Professor became endowed. Even though the professor was getting paid, the College still had to charge the three dollars a year extra fee for taking the classes. In effect, since Dickinson was charging extra for the classes, and the classes were required for graduation, Juniors and Seniors were paying an extra three dollars a year to attend the College9.

Throughout the 1850s the College continually flipped requirements back and forth for the students regarding French and German.10  Finally, in 1860-1861 the College dissolved the professorship of Modern Languages, placing German was under the Greek department and French was under the Latin department.12  They kept the actual position, but did not fill it again until 1870-1871 when Rev. William Trickett, A. B. was made the adjunct professor of Modern Languages.11  When Trickett joined the College, the Modern Language department was starting to get back on track.  Due to a personal conflict Trickett was not at the College in 1871-1872, but returned in 1872-1873 as a regular professor. His last year was in 1873-187413. The next year William Fisher joined the College and stayed for only two years14.

After Fisher left, the professorship remained vacant until Ovando Byron Super was hired in 1884-1885.15 The next year, 1885-1886, incoming Freshman could be exempt from the Latin and Greek testing.  One could only do this if one declared that they were going to be a Modern Language "major."16 The department of Modern Languages had finally been established and there are now no more extra fees to take either a modern language or an ancient one.

The department continued to grow until, in 1914-1915, the College brought back the other Romance Languages of Spanish and Italian.17  In 1945-1946,  the College recognized officially a strengthened department of Modern Languages when the Romance Language professors and the German professors were joined into one group.18  During the next few decades Russian (1946)19 was introduced and so was Chinese (1967).20

In the mid to late 1960s, the College started three different departments, two of which still remain at Dickinson.  In 1964, the Russian and Soviet Area Studies major and minor were approved.21 In 1969, the College approved the other two -- International Studies22 and South East Asian Studies23. The South East Asian Studies major was removed in the mid 1970s, but only a decade later in 1984, Dickinson approved the East Asian Studies major.