BU curriculum makes the grade

By Jade Mardirosian
Staff Writer

Students are not the only ones working hard to make A’s these days. Universities across the country are striving to have their core curriculum recognized with a grade of ‘A’ in the American Council of Trustees and Alumni’s report “What Will They Learn?”

Baylor received an ‘A’ grade for its core curriculum for the second consecutive year. In the report, institutions are given a grade ranging from ‘A’ to ‘F’ based on the number of seven core subjects they require their students to take. The subjects included are: composition, economics, foreign language at an intermediate level, literature, math, science and U.S. government or history.

Baylor was the only Big 12 university to be named to the ‘A’ list, requiring that students take six of the seven required core subjects, excluding economics.

Dr. Heidi Bostic, chair of the modern foreign languages department, said a well-rounded college education works to prepare students for life.

A college education needs to prepare students for life, not just for work,” Bostic said. “That’s really why an education has to be broad and wide-ranging, because it’s preparing students to meet all of life’s challenges and to have an open mind and learn how to think critically.”

Dr. Dianna Vitanza, chair of the English department, said he believes education serves as a preparation for life.

“One needs to have experience and knowledge in many areas of life in order to have a successful life,” Vitanza said. “[Students] need to know about history, politics, literature, and be able to communicate in a language other than their own, otherwise they just live in a cocoon. Preparing for one narrow job doesn’t prepare you to live in a world.”

Dr. Kimberly Kellison, director of undergraduate studies in the history department, said the type of core curriculum Baylor offers also allows students to expand their understanding of many subjects.

“As the term [well-rounded] implies, it broadens one’s focus, allowing one to explore, outside of a particular specialty or area of interest,” Kellison said. “[This is] so important because it allows one to explore and investigate questions and learn about ideas, cultures and belief systems from all sorts of perspectives.”

Kellison said she believes that through a strong general education students can gain confidence to find and cement their own beliefs.

“General Education challenges students to question and explore new ideas,” Kellison said. “I think that gives students more confidence to embrace their own beliefs and also to recognize the breadth of knowledge and diversity in the world. Being familiar with that diversity gives students more confidence to find their own beliefs.”

All three agree that the core subjects students are required to take each have an important effect on how students understand and interact with others and the world.

“Something like reading literature really develops the ability for a student to empathize and identify with characters different than themselves. It makes them more sympathetic and compassionate,” Vitanza said. “Reading narratives is the way we learn about the world.”

Kellison said that understanding past and present political systems and history helps students to become better and more informed citizens.

Bostic touched on the importance of foreign languages.

“Students must know how to work with people from other cultures and traditions,” Bostic said. “Studying a foreign language is the only way to gain that; you can’t really know how to come at a problem from another culture unless you’ve studied a foreign language.”

Vitanza said being named to this list for the second consecutive year shows that Baylor is concerned with its students developing all aspects of their intellectual abilities.

“We want students to be able to live successfully in the world and to do that you’ve got to be well-rounded,” Vitanza said. “Students need to know about political life in order to make thoughtful decisions. They need to know about other languages and be able to communicate with people different than themselves. They need to be open to the world and a lot of these courses help students to become that way.”