Kevin Carey manages to spin a trip to a Canadian music store into an extremely long analogy in favor of more heavy-handed curricular guidance on the part of college administrators:
This doesn’t mean every student needs exactly the same core curriculum, like some kind of rote march from Revolver to Never Mind the Bollocks to Nevermind. But it does mean that universities need to do a better job of applying some degree of judgment and taste in working with their students to decide what they need to learn. Otherwise, they may end up like Tower Records, while the little CD store up the street thrives in selling the intellectual taste that, more than anything, students really need.[The point here being that the giant store-full-of-music model was rendered obsolete by the internet, but smaller stores where the staff can offer you judgment and insight still have value]
I’ve always found these kind of arguments about strict core requirements, laxer ones, etc. to be a bit puzzling. There probably isn’t a unique best way to handle this. Which is why it’s fortunate that even if you restrict your attention to the relatively small set of elite colleges and universities there are still a whole bunch of ’em. It seems to me that there’s a set of defensible approaches to the issue (including no requirements whatsoever) and it’s good for some colleges to adopt each of them. I worry that pressure on each individual school to strike the “correct” balance leads ultimately to a kind of bland uniform compromise that serves no good purpose.