Common Core needs revamping

Common Core needs revamping

If you’ve ever switched majors and moved to a different college or school, you have probably run into problems with the University’s core curriculum. To call it a university core is generous because it isn’t consistent across the university. Each college has its own version of the core with different amounts and types of classes that are required. If you are a nursing student or engineering major, you probably didn’t even know there was a core curriculum. If you are in the College of Arts and Sciences, however, you are probably struggling to fit a major in around it.

The differing types and amounts of classes required by the various core curricula across campus cause some pretty serious logistical issues, especially for someone who wants to change to a major in a different college or school, but I would argue that there are far greater problems with the University’s core curriculum. The first is that it does not include a universal course that embodies what SLU is as a university. SLU currently has the U101 course, which introduces students to the University and to college life, but SLU can do better. The core curriculum needs a course that challenges students to think deeply about their own life purpose, their purpose while in college, and how those relate to the University’s goals of truth, service, and justice. Ideally it would be a course that both students and the top faculty from across campus would look forward to experiencing together.

Although we do not have this universal course, most students do take theology, philosophy, and history courses as a part of their core curriculums. Unfortunately, these widely taken courses often teach students an imperialist, eurocentric view of the world that reinforces dominant and violent structures in our society. If students are unsure what I am talking about, I would encourage them to think about how many non-white, non-Christian authors they have read during their theology, philosophy, and history courses. For most students, the answer is probably none at all. This is highly frustrating for marginalized students who want and deserve more, and it is also harmful to privileged students because they are never pushed to understand privilege and oppression, learn how to engage in dialogue, and become interculturally competent. This is a problem that cannot be solved by simply adding diversity credits to the core curriculum. First, because students often find a way around taking courses that will challenge them. Second, because labeling an African American history course as a diversity credit, while maintaining a eurocentric history course as a non-diversity course reinforces the dominant narrative that black history is inferior. We need core curriculum courses that are decolonized and actively push students to challenge dominant ways of thought.

The final problem is that our core curriculum does not do enough to push students to be engaged in the community. The mission of the University is “the pursuit of truth for the greater glory of God and for the service of humanity,” but most students never find ways to truly be in service with humanity. A large part of Jesuit learning is the idea of an encounter: an experience that smacks a student across the face with injustice and demands that they find a way to respond. The University can do more to provide students with these encounters and then support them as they learn how to serve responsibly and productively in the community. Much of this will hinge on the University’s ability to unify students behind SLU’s mission and to push students to challenge the ways through which they think about the world. It also means the University has to prioritize building strong partnerships in the community. I would much rather be able to talk about how SLU supports literacy in our community by providing hundreds of tutors to the City’s Public Schools than to brag about how many hours are volunteered on Make a Difference Day.

Last week the Student Government Association (SGA) announced that one of its goals for the year would be to “assist the Office of the Provost in reforming Core Curriculum requirements at SLU.” This is not a new goal for SGA, it is something the organization has been working on for at least the last four years and not much progress has been made despite a large amount of effort. This past academic year many SLU faculty members signed a letter voicing their commitment to diversity and inclusion, and I would like to challenge those faculty members to recognize the issue of core curriculum reform as an opportunity to demonstrate that commitment. If we want SLU to truly live out its mission and be the type of institution it professes to be, then we need to come together to solve this issue. It won’t be easy, but matters of great importance never are

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