by Eklea Cakuli
When I first came to St. John’s I was overjoyed to see the wonderful selection of elective classes. St. John’s is a large university with the benefits of small classes, but there is a catch. Several in fact. St. John’s College requires that each student take a minimum of nine credits of theology and nine credits of philosophy, then an additional three credits of either theology or philosophy for a grand total of 21 credits.
The school of Education and Human Services requires only nine credits of theology and nine philosophy, so do the College of Pharmacy and Allied Health Professions and the College of Business Administration. St. John’s College has a rather impressive list of requirements, but none rival the number of credits one needs in theology and philosophy. Only three credits of fine arts are required, three credits of speech, and six of history.
We have to consider the obvious: this is after all a Catholic university and as students we have an obligation to be knowledgeable in both philosophy and theology, especially the latter. But isn’t college a time of exploration?
We took only required courses in high school and lived through them. Now we should have a chance to take the courses we want to take-the courses that interest us, not the administration. The great thing about college is that we can choose which classes to take and when to take them, but with such a rigid core curriculum, there is little room for free electives. St. John’s College requires a minimum of 126 credits for graduation, which can make it difficult to graduate in four years.
A history major would be able to fulfill all major and core requirements with exactly 126 credits, but would have to take 16 credits per semester for three out of four years of undergraduate study. To me, that is quite a hefty course load. Some of these courses are not as easy as they seem.
Most theology and philosophy professors do not give multiple choice tests and the readings require a high level of comprehension. But what if a student wants to take an extra course, outside of the long list of core requirements? If 16 credits is tough, how does 18 sound? That is what many students are taking. They cram their schedules in order to graduate on time and, like me when I first started here, seem to think that there is nothing they can do about it. If a student wants to take some extra classes like a foreign language or a minor outside of philosophy or theology, the repeated 18 credit semesters will put a considerable amount of stress on them, especially if they have to work a part-time job on the side.
One person’s opinion may not be loud enough to change the rules, but that doesn’t mean changes aren’t a good idea. The current arrangement is fine for theology or philosophy majors, but it is a different story for someone who majors in one of the hard sciences.
Three to four classes of theology is too much, and students should not be obliged to take that many. One would be acceptable; even two would be endurable. The option should be there for students to take as many theology classes as they want, but such a high requirement is just too much, even for a Catholic university.
by Nicole Piering
Over the course of our lives, we were told that we should become the most educated and well-rounded people that we can be.
Throughout high school, we filled our schedules with a bevy of classes, ranging from gym to music to English. On the side, many of us worked to fill our free time with extracurricular activities that would make us appear to be talented and versatile individuals. Now that we’re in college, however, that has changed.
For many of the students at St. John’s, the mere mention of a theology or philosophy class elicits groans and complaints. In reality, many students would rather rush through the courses that are required for their major rather than take a course in philosophy or theology.
Most of these students feel that the core requirements are unnecessary and should be abolished, since our studies only need to prepare us for our future careers. However, most students will change their majors at least once during their college career. Imagine the predicament you’d be in if, after three and a half years as an education major, you realize that you much rather pursue a career in science.
Thanks to the St. John’s core, you’ll have many courses that can overlap into your new major. However, if many students did things the way they wanted to, they’d be in big trouble if they became fickle with their major.
Now, some people will argue that they know exactly what they want to do with their lives and it doesn’t include theology or philosophy. In life, however, balance is the key.
It may be important to specialize in one field, but if we are close-minded to the wealth of information available, we are closing ourselves off to many new ideas. In reality, theology and philosophy classes can expand our horizons in ways that we never expected.
Often, philosophy forces us to think outside of the box and examine life from seemingly unfathomable perspectives. Theology, on the other hand, offers us a look into different religions and the ways in which they interact.
Some people will argue that these requirements oppress us, forcing us to conform to the University’s ideals, rather than explore the world through elective classes.
However, given the option, many college students would not choose electives with the hope of broadening their horizons, but rather with the idea of padding their GPA with easy courses. By mandating courses like philosophy and theology in the core, St. John’s is providing a way to gain a balanced and diverse education.
Although many students come to college with a clear vision of their future, many things can change over the course of four years. During this time of change and exploration, however, the job of the school is to provide its students with a well-rounded and balanced education, which should include a varying range of courses.
St. John’s should be commended for implementing the core curriculum with philosophy and theology. Those requirements force students to gain a broad experience, thus further preparing them for life in the real world.