Column: Changing The Core
Published: Monday, February 25, 2013
Updated: Monday, February 25, 2013 02:02
This spring, the University continues its review of the academic core curriculum, and tomorrow, a number of students will be joining in the ongoing discussion. The student focus group will be asked to answer one basic question: “What do you see for the future of the BC core curriculum?” Though simple in structure, this question and the answers it yields will shape the future of education on Boston College’s campus.
Last updated in 1991, the core strives to inspire intellectual engagement, to establish an enduring foundation, and to chart a purposeful journey. The goal is that students will become dynamic citizens of the world, having received a well-rounded, interdisciplinary education. Personally, I’ve always admired and valued what the core stands for. It sets BC and other Jesuit universities apart from other schools, and provides students with a broad knowledge in a wide range of disciplines. Yes, please, go ahead and cue cliches like “Education of the Whole Person” and “Men and Women for Others” because these oft-repeated phrases are exactly what I believe the core renewal should focus on.
As it exists now, the core is undeniably important. Though many students dread taking core classes, nearly as many end up finding a unique academic path that they didn’t know existed, and some choose to pursue a new major or minor. Moreover, the core unites the student body, giving every student that graduates from BC a common academic experience that, if nothing else, has challenged us to think more critically about the world.
The benefits of the current system are clear, and should be preserved. However, I feel the core can become an even more finely honed tool.
Keeping in mind the idea of educating the whole person, I encourage the University to focus on reviewing the cultural diversity aspect of the core. Currently, the cultural diversity requirement is usually fulfilled with classes that have little relevance to the daily life of BC students. While many of these classes are interesting and informative, they have little application to interactions between students of different backgrounds and, unfortunately, forming meaningful and open-minded relationships with people of different ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds is an aspect of campus life that many students struggle with.
I suggest that the core class in cultural diversity be revitalized as a small, discussion-based seminar held during the freshman year and required for all first-year students. In this class, students could read and discuss various texts related to cultural diversity, including books on race relations and cultural identity. The result would be a student body far more educated on issues of diversity, fostering a more accepting, less prejudicial community.
Frequently overlooked, another issue I would love to see the core curriculum address is sustainability. Most often defined as meeting our present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs, sustainability should no longer be an elective. Sustainability curricula are still relatively rare in American colleges and universities, but courses built around the core ideas and methods of sustainability are growing, and can be expected to produce more formal degree programs in the future. As a University that prides itself on being ahead of the curve, BC needs to take action now to incorporate sustainable issues into every student’s academic experience.
Regular renewal of the core curriculum is crucial, and absolutely necessary if we are to continue to be one of the nation’s premier academic institutions. To those involved in the review process, make wise decisions —continue BC’s legacy of educating men and women for the world.