Photo by Trey Powers
By Ryan Carlyle | Herald Contributor
As fall semester reaches midterm, students have had the time to reflect on their schedule. Many of the current freshman are jammed into the dreaded 8 a.m. statistics and writing classes. Returning students might notice that classes seem more full than usual. The proud 15-to-1 student to faculty ratio seems hard to believe as more and more classes are filled to the brim. Overcrowding aside, the classes still feel as they always do. The issue I wish to address is not in the lack of parking spaces, or the long lines at Commons, or even the jam packed hallways in CAS. I wish to shed light on one issue that plagues every student equally. Every student at Roger Williams University has been affected since this program was implemented. I am of course referring to the Core program.
At RWU, each student is required to take five Core classes. These five courses are required across all majors and programs: Core 101 – Scientific Investigations; Core 102 – Challenges of Democracy; Core 103 – Human Behavior in Perspective; Core 104 – Literature, Philosophy, and the Examined Life; and Core 105 – Aesthetics in Context: The Artistic Impulse.
Each class is designed to give students a different branch of a liberal arts education—or, as the school’s website puts it, “In these courses students examine great ideas, historic milestones, and works of art; discover connections among different areas of knowledge and methods for gathering it; learn to reason logically, to sift through deception and cant, and to integrate what they know.” These classes are supposed to give students a diverse course load and “encourage” students to branch out. In reality, these classes felt more like a burden for current students.
Last year when deciding what courses I would take, I was forced to fill in my schedule with an undesirable aesthetics class. I knew that I would not enjoy my time in this class, and every 50 minute session felt like 50 minutes I could have spent elsewhere. This course is designed to “open my eyes” and “expose me to culture,” or whatever nonsense the syllabus states. I mean no ill will against art majors or those interested in the arts, but I can tell you already it is not for me. I have known that art was never my forte since third grade. Why am I being forced to take a course I have absolutely no interest in taking? I wish I had the freedom to try out new classes by my own choice, like the Spanish class I wanted to take. Instead, I have to wait until next semester, where I will be burdened with yet another Core class that will most likely inhibit me from taking courses I am interested in.
If an individual wishes to take an arts class, or a philosophy class, or a lab, then they should have the freedom to do so. The school’s curriculum should not force students to take courses they have no desire to take. I’m not saying that encouraging students to take a diverse course load is a bad thing, but the key word is encouraging. Administrators and advisors should allow students a chance to search the course catalogs for classes that interest them. Give incoming freshman the opportunity to take courses they want to take. College is about branching out from your comfort zone and learning new things, but not by the will of others. Why should a business major take an art class they know they will get nothing out of? Why force an engineer to take a philosophy class they have no desire to take? Why make a psychology student take a human behavior class when they already learn more in their other required courses?
My solution to this issue is simple: dissolve the five-course interdisciplinary Cores. Instead of making students take these courses they have no idea if they will enjoy or not, grant them more electives. With these newfound free spots, all students at RWU will have a choice in what they want to take. Even those who are adamant in their curriculum can get major specific courses out of the way earlier and pursue another minor if they wish. I know my ideas seem somewhat radical, and the implementation would be highly unlikely, but I just want to offer some food for thought to my fellow students. College should be about trying new things, reaching out of your comfort zone, and discovering your passion. If we are to grow as individuals and become mature adults, we should be trusted to make decisions regarding our own schedules, and when we find a course we do not like, we know that at least we made that choice ourselves.