Editorial: Core changes

Photo courtesy calvin.edu
Photo courtesy calvin.edu

Over my last 18 months of being on leadership at Chimes, few things have really surprised me. But this week, my jaw dropped a little bit and my eyebrows went up when I learned this: Calvin could have a new core in May.

That story is slapped on the front page of our paper this week for two reasons: first, it’s very important, and second, the clock is ticking.

Now, if we were to play a word association game with the word “core” here at Calvin, you might think about writing a philosophy paper at 1 a.m. or waking up early to take that physical education class.

And some of us might think about core helping us become well-rounded people and giving our resumes a boost. Most importantly, I think, core gives us the tools to usher in God’s kingdom in whichever square inch we find ourselves in down the road.

But while we can all agree that core is important, the gray areas with the change come in the nitty-gritty: do we still accomplish our goals with two physical education credits instead of three? Can we let students choose between writing and speech instead of making them take both? How about philosophy and history? Can we integrate cross-cultural engagement core into the rest of the curriculum and still communicate the importance of diversity?

I think it’s easy for us to shrug our shoulders and play the “we’re just students” card in a conversation like this. After all, to a lot of us, core is just a checklist that we can’t wait to finish.

And while faculty dominate the ideological debate behind changing core, we students have something critically valuable to add to this conversation: we live in the nitty-gritty. We live in the details. We’re living the checklist.

“Let’s face it,” said the core committee’s report. “A core curriculum … is as much about practical concerns as principles.”

We students see something that faculty cannot — the full picture from the ground level. And while the philosophical debate behind the reasons of core might be a conversation best suited for faculty, the practical debate is not.

So how can we students join this conversation?

We can start by talking with our profs. Ask them what they think of the new core and tell them what you think. Find out who represents your department on faculty senate and tell them your thoughts.

We students also have a couple formal avenues. We have a student representative on the core committee, Katie Vogel. She told me that she welcomes feedback and encourages people to email her their thoughts (kla22).

Another avenue is student senate. I think student senate would serve the students well by initiating an intentional conversation around core this fall, so they can represent the student interest well when this comes to a vote in faculty senate.

And finally, we here at Chimes offer an avenue. It’s our job to make sure we have this discussion in the open and that all voices are represented, to make sure you know about these plans before it’s too late to have your say and to make sure you have a platform to say what you think. We welcome opinion pieces and letters to the editor telling us your point of view.

The new core could be in effect as early as next year. Let’s not let this opportunity to shape future generations of Calvin students slip through our fingers.

About the Author

Ryan Struyk

Ryan Struyk was the Chimes editor in chief for fall 2013. He's a senior studying mathematics and political science. Being a journalist means being both student and teacher of the world, and that’s why his job is the best one out there.

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