Letter to the Editor: Core Curriculum Changes
Keep language core
Cuts to language core should not be made. Knowing two or more languages has many benefits, such as a better understanding of a foreign culture that would otherwise likely not be learned as well as a better understanding of the English language. In the case of learning Germanic and Romance languages, vocabulary and language understanding in English is greatly expanded. Further studies have found correlations between language learning and increased cognitive flexibility, better problem solving skills and higher standardized test scores.
Lastly, and perhaps most convincingly for many people, knowing more than one language is a huge benefit and easily sets you apart from most other job candidates in many fields. In the U.S., especially in certain regions, Spanish language knowledge is becoming increasingly sought after by employers and is projected to rise significantly in the next few decades. Globally, knowledge of another language, such as French or Mandarin, is monumentally important.
Those who argue that obtaining a 200-level achievement is not worth their time stand in opposition to a large body of scientific and linguistic study, not to mention global and domestic business projections.
A long list of studies and results of foreign language benefits is available through the Connecticut State Department of Education.
Travis Stehouwer (’13)
Mixed experiences with core
The question of which core classes to eliminate is a tough question, but a good one. On one hand, Calvin being a liberal arts college is one of our biggest strengths — I had no idea I would show such an interest in sociology, philosophy and psychology as a freshman in 2005 and I genuinely enjoyed those courses. However, the intro art course I only took for a day before switching to intro to film was horrendous and hardly deserved to be called “art.” I was forced to take math, biology, history, English and foreign language classes despite having taken multiple years and advanced courses of all in high school. I had hoped that the days of being forced to perform in a PE class were over. That said, I will admit that studying Chinese was a “core highlight” of my college career, along with my interim basketball class.
I genuinely feel that I wasted a lot of time in certain classes while in college and that my best “real world” experiences came from my on-campus job and extracurricular activities. There are definitely things I would do differently with the knowledge I now have about what certain courses are truly about, but I am also very grateful to core classes for helping steer me toward my true passions in life, as well as bringing out and cultivating some hidden passions I may not have discovered otherwise.
Thanks for being serious and thoughtful with this topic, Chimes.
Michael J Mandeville (’09)
Students should take more core
Calvin, at least the ideal one, provided an education that stretched me beyond my major and the check-box of Prelude & DCM-type classes. I had the opportunity and requirement to take serious looks in fields that I might not choose as a vocation and got to do so with the best professors in the area. This forced my mind into different contexts and strengthened my ability to approach new situations and perspectives, whether I use the content itself or not.
If anything, Calvin’s core needs to broaden and deepen. Yes, I hear students say, “We’re already packing our schedules to the limit and can’t possibly take MORE core. We’d have to be in school forever,” and I sympathize. If you want a purely practical and professional degree, much cheaper schools exist, some of which have an equally strong standing in a field as Calvin. A deep core offers students a process to become better citizens and thinkers who hold a multi-faceted intellect, a skill that grows more valuable in a rapidly-shifting, global society.
Stephen Swanson (’01)
Cut PE and language
The core curriculum should focus on classes that teach you basic skills that help you in later life. To that end, why are there three required physical education classes, yet only one writing class? I went to college to learn and develop skills that would help me get a job once I graduated, not join a health club.
Furthermore, requiring four semesters worth of foreign language seems a bit excessive given that most high schools already require at least two years. I was thankfully put on the fast track to complete German in one year, but that still meant giving up one of my Interims in order to take German.
I liked my time at Calvin, but the core curriculum was so vast, I constantly felt that it prevented me from taking classes I was genuinely interested in.
Paul Menn (’10)