Piper Thomasson & Elsa Valenzuela
May 14, 2015
Every week, Elsa and I read the weekly issue of The Santa Clara at the Nobili desk. At the end of Week 3, we spent considerably more time than usaul talking about one article in particular.
When a freshman student wrote an opinion of Santa Clara’s “bloated” core curriculum, we were quite curious as to why someone might choose that adjective.
According to Merriam Webster’s Online Dictionary, the first definition is, “obnoxiously vain” and the second, “being much larger than what is warranted.” I would say he touched on both of these definitions in describing his opinions and, looking at our core requirements on paper, I can absolutely sympathize with how these conclusions may have been reached; but being a junior who is finishing up her core classes this quarter, I can’t say I agree with them.
That being said, I am aware that I have been one of the lucky students here. I loved my mandatory, seemingly randomly-assigned-to-me Cultures and Ideas class (shout out to Courtney Mohler, “(De)Colonial Narratives,” and the awesome classmates who still say “hi” and catch up for a bit when we bump into one another years later). And I loved how my Critical Thinking and Writing class helped me learn and appreciate the writing process, opening up my eyes and mind to the different perspectives we all hold.
I saw how these perspectives affect the past, present and future, (thanks Professor Mahamdi) where, yes, we had similar structures both quarters, but the second built on the first, and it was wonderful being comfortable with a skill that eventually led to my second major and my current job as a Writing Partner in the HUB. I could go on and on about the specific experiences I had, but that is not the point.
The point is that, freshman year, I had no idea how these core classes would affect me as I continued my college career.
I mean, I wasn’t even familiar with Jesuit ideals before I came to this university. I was just taking classes because I knew I had to, without much regard for the effect that it may or may not have on me afterward.
In retrospect, however, I am so grateful that I have been able to learn so many things. I do not think that the university is just “marketing” these classes so they can appear to be upholding Jesuit values.
They really do! Educating the whole student, taking the students out of the SCU bubble with the Experiential Learning for Social Justice requirement, teaching them how to get involved within the community through their own talents with the Civic Engagement requirement… yes.
In the Core Curriculum book, these classes might sound redundant, but in my experience, they are not.
Yes, they build on each other, they crossover, they intertwine as many of these courses do; but in that, they enrich each other, as well as the students taking them.
It is hard, for any major, to add as many classes as the core curriculum demands, plus a pathway and balancing this with a social life, clubs, trying to sleep and so on. We all know the struggle.
It happens, it’s happened to me, and it sounds like it’s happening to the frustrated freshman who wrote the article. And yes, some classes overlap more than others. I’m not very familiar with STEM majors (being a double major in Theatre Arts with a Dance Emphasis and English myself), but Elsa is as a Biology major.
A lot of her classes have overlapped with her core and pathway (Science, Technology, and Society) despite her major, and she has found a way to enjoy the “breather from science.”
We all have our gripes with our classes, but if we plan well, we can juggle core classes that overlap with our majors, pathways or at the very least our interests.
There will always be pros and cons. That’s life. There are classes we do not like that we have to take anyways. It happens. But I think the outcome of these classes really depends on the attitude we have when we go into them.
If we refuse to see what we could gain from a class that at first seems unimportant, we will not take anything away from it. If we allow ourselves to see beyond what may appear to be a “strained environment” and a “stifling blanket of sameness,” maybe we won’t feel our “intellectual passions being stymied.”
And if that is the case, what about talking to a professor about how you think a course could be improved? Going to the chair of the department? Bringing it up with the dean? Or even, perhaps, talking with our fellow students who have so much to offer with their unique backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives they carry all day and in class?
No system is perfect, but the way Santa Clara encourages the education of students’ hearts and minds seems, to me, a pretty excellent one so far. I did not see it right away, but I do now; so if nothing else, all I can ask is that we give the core curriculum a chance.
Piper Thomasson is a junior dance and English double major. Elsa Valenzuela is a junior biology major.