NO – Marquette should not maintain its core curriculum

Posted on 21 November 2008 by Adam Ryback

Marquette’s core curriculum is based upon the guidelines set by St. Ignatius, founder of the Jesuit Order, for education within the Society of Jesus. According to the University’s website, “In the Constitutions of the Society of Jesus, St. Ignatius states that, ‘… in the universities of the Society the principal emphasis ought to be placed on (theology)’ (IV.12.1). In turn, says Ignatius, the study of theology … requires knowledge of (1) the humanities … (2) the natural sciences and (3) philosophy.”

The origins of this come from medieval universities where the curriculum involved the trivium (grammar, logic and rhetoric) and the quadrivium (astronomy, geometry, arithmetic and music). These are the basic studies which are a part of the modern core curriculum, used by liberal arts colleges today. Marquette requires that all undergraduates take courses involving these or similar subjects. I am glad that Marquette is attempting to live up to the standards set by St. Ignatius.

The whole point of a core curriculum in Ignatius’ mind was to help students understand theology by providing them with a background in other studies. However, the university is reversing the process. The university provides students with a basic background in theology and similar studies in order to help them prepare for business classes, engineering courses etc… This is not what St. Ignatius had in mind.

Over the course of the twentieth century, our nation’s universities have gradually shifted away from the traditional ideals of a university. In fact, the traditional university has been replaced with a glorified trade school. The university is now a place where students avoid as much of the core curriculum as possible in hopes of avoiding classes like history, philosophy, theology etc. The average university student receives a minimum amount of knowledge in studies which contribute toward critical thinking and rational decision making.

As a business student, I am cognizant of the simple fact that if you enter the university and receive a degree in philosophy or a similar subject, you quickly come to the conclusion that you must enter law school, teach philosophy or drive a bus. Consequently, most people, myself included, decide to major in something like accounting, electrical engineering, marketing etc. As long as employers prefer applicants with degrees in these areas, our current system will not change.

Therefore, the only way to help St. Ignatius recognize Marquette as a Jesuit university once again is to make a stronger core curriculum. Presently, there are a limited number of classes in our core of common studies, in comparison to medieval universities. And those which we do have tend to be watered down. Quite frankly, if undergraduate tuition costs $27,720 for this year alone, I want to receive an education worth $27,720. Why should I pay that much money for a core of common studies that could be replaced by taking AP or IB courses in high school? One of the four pillars of this university is excellence. Why not have it reflect our core curriculum? I do not care whether or not our university ranks well against other colleges in this area. Excellence is not determined by rank. Excellence is determined by doing your best to live up to your God-given abilities.

Now many people may say that this will merely take up more time and consequently more money. After all, a stronger, longer curriculum will merely result in more time at college, which will obviously cost more money. Nobody wants to do that. People would rather be content with mediocrity. At $27,720 a year, I guess I can understand why. Nevertheless, the cost does not justify the fact that this is a Jesuit university. We are meant to live up to the educational ideals of great men, like St. Ignatius, St. Francis Xavier and even Pere Marquette.

As mentioned before, the style of education in place today is what a trade school used to be. There is nothing wrong with a trade school. Thousands of Americans have benefited from going to trade school. But trade schools are concerned with teaching people what they need to know for their jobs. Universities are meant to go beyond the basics, and to teach people about science, language, rhetoric and arithmetic. I have no problem with degrees involving the arts and science. But I do think that degrees in business and communication should be reserved for trade schools, or maybe even a new, different kind of university or school. Please keep in mind that, as I said before, I am a business student. Nonetheless, I believe that our current educational system should be reformed, especially Jesuit institutions like Marquette.

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