Getting Arts & Sciences core reform right

Photo credit: Rewon Shimray

This is written in response to the editorial “Core curriculum changes would allow more choice,” published Sept. 22.

In 1941, Forrest Mars introduced a new hard candy that quickly became a favorite. Originally available only with a milk chocolate center, M&M’s now come in seven varieties, including pretzel and peanut butter. Today’s consumers demand greater variety and more choices, a trend reflected in the ongoing College of Arts and Sciences core curriculum change recently reported in The Lariat. However, despite being introduced in the 1940s, does the College of Arts and Sciences core really have much in common with a bag of M&M’s?

Review and reform of the A&S core creates opportunity for positive developments in Baylor’s liberal arts education, but several misconceptions threaten to derail a beneficial reform of the core if left unaddressed.

First, students come to a liberal arts college not as consumers but as clients. They are no more consumers of education than they are of medical professional services. No doctor prescribes a diet of only M&M’s even if the patient demands this. Clients turn to professionals because they need the professional’s guidance, both in identifying their best interests and helping achieve them.

A second pitfall lies in forgetting that a liberal arts education does not simply turn out “well-rounded” students. This expression implies that students could meet this goal by dabbling in the greatest variety of courses. Instead, liberal arts education molds correctly- or well-educated students, those who have the recognized core knowledge and character qualities of an educated individual.

Coupled with the pressure to procure gainful employment, this condition makes them susceptible to a final fallacy, confusing the university with a job training facility. Students risk overestimating the importance of their major(s) or GPA in the job selection process.

The core reform is not a bag of M&M’s. Educators should prescribe a healthy diet that assists students to grow in stature. That diet may change as Baylor’s student body changes, but, not driven by consumerism over professional responsibility.

Jeremy Schmuck, Waco doctoral candidate

Editor’s Note: This piece has been modified to replace CASA, which stands for the College of Arts & Sciences Advisement, with A&S. The latter is the most accurate reference to the College of Arts & Sciences.