In My Opinion: Core Curriculum Review

Author: Grace Bushong


I have a love-hate relationship with gen-eds. I love that my mostly science/math schedule can be broken up with a writing or art class, but it’s easy to forget that while sitting in 8:20 philosophy wondering when I will ever need to know about Cartesian Dualism. The liberal-arts-like core curriculum classes differentiate Notre Dame from other universities where an English major might never take a science class and an engineer might never have to write a paper.

The core curriculum is meant to consist of all the subjects that the university wants its graduates to know. In order to keep these requirements relevant, a committee convenes every 10 years to review the existing core classes and discuss possible additions. In keeping with that tradition, John McGreevy, dean of the College of Arts and Letters, and Michael Hildreth, a professor of physics, lead the current committee. The members plan to release their curriculum review around fall break.

The current core requirements include Writing and Rhetoric, two math classes, two science classes, one history class, one social science class, two theology classes, two philosophy classes, a fine arts or literature class and the Moreau First Year of Studies class. The most commonly debated subjects are philosophy and theology. Many students have gone to Catholic school for 12 years, but for others this might be their first exposure to Catholicism.

In my opinion, four classes total in philosophy and theology seems exhaustive when engineering majors only have four free electives total after taking gen-eds. I still think both are important, however, and one class of each would be a good compromise. The rest of the requirements seem to be beneficial; with so many options in each topic area, students can usually find a course that they would be interested in or even one that incorporates their major.

A sustainability requirement would be a great addition to the core curriculum. Catholic teaching stresses environmental responsibility. The combination of environmental science with more abstract thinking about how we should treat our planet would be approachable for either science or arts and letters majors. The department of American studies has also proposed a U.S. diversity requirement that, according to the proposal, would focus on “individuals or groups marginalized on the basis of race, ethnicity, class, sexuality, gender or religion in the United States,” so that students can broaden their knowledge of those who have experienced life differently than themselves.

If there are any additions to the core curriculum, however, they need to replace something instead of increasing the mandated credit hours. The diversity proposal takes this into account. “We assume that the new curriculum will allow some core courses to be double counted, so this requirement would not necessarily mean an increase in the total credit hours devoted to general education,” it says. Any change in the core curriculum should allow students the freedom to pick classes they want to take out of interest, not just to satisfy a requirement.

The views of this author are not necessarily the views of Scholastic magazine.