By Rev. Patrick J. Lynch and Mark Meyer, Ph,D.
S.J. Director of the Core Curriculum and Assoc. Director of the Core Curriculum
In response to Nathan Baumgartner’s opinion in the Griffin of 9 February 2018 regarding the Canisius Core Curriculum (“Good intention, bad outcomes”), we would like to offer some information to students about an exciting new initiative on which the CCC, Faculty Senate, and the faculty at large are working. The initiative is currently called “Core Pathways.” It involves coordinating a set of classes that carry core attributes (e.g. Field 1, Field 2, ethics, justice, oral communication, etc.) and have a common theme. One theme that is sure to interest many students is called “Sustainability.” It involves many areas such as environmental justice, ethics of meat-eating, the mathematics behind climate change models, the treatment of animals, and other relevant course topics. There are 3 other proposed pathways and more are in the works. It is our hope that students will choose a pathway and take as many core courses in it as possible. A pathway will give a coherence to a student’s core experience as well as perhaps make it more exciting and relevant to the student’s life goals and interests. The core as it exists presently will still be in place and students will not be forced to choose a pathway. More details are being ironed out and we hope to run a pilot in Spring 2019. The four foundation courses (FYS 101, ENG 101, RST 101 and PHI 101) will remain unchanged and will not be part of any pathway.
Regarding the claim that our core curriculum suffers from bad outcomes in high school, Canisius cannot do more than try to ensure that our graduates have the skills they need to succeed in life, which includes being able to communicate both in writing and speaking, have an appreciation for the religious and philosophical dimensions of life, and in general get a well-rounded education. This is the heart of what liberal arts education means: to provide a wide perspective on our world and provide a bigger context for a student’s major studies.
We believe college is a vastly enriching experience that prepares people for an ever-changing world, not just a single skill area. Furthermore, many of our graduates who reflect back on their undergraduate days often praise their own experience with the core and the value it added to their lives. Employers often tell our faculty that they appreciate the general skills that Canisius emphasizes, for example having a computer programmer who can write coherent English. Finally, our assessment results show that, while there are some weaknesses in our delivery of the core, by and large our students are performing at or above expected levels. Therefore, it is misleading to say that our core has had bad outcomes.
We would also welcome input and feedback from any Canisius student, either in email or a visit.