I’ve attended John Carroll University for over two years now, and it’s my first time being enrolled in a Jesuit school. That being said, my transition from a public school to a private institution was smooth, as I haven’t noticed many differences between a Jesuit education and a “regular” education. In terms of my overall college experience, I love my major, have made great friends and thoroughly enjoy living on my own (plus three roommates). That being said, my classes really seem to be dragging on, and I’ve figured out why only recently: The Jesuits intended for college kids to suffer.
Don’t get me wrong, I have mad respect for Ignatius of Loyola and his buddies, but their interpretation of a “proper education” differs completely from my own, and I’m sure my classmates will agree with me to the fullest extent. If you aren’t a theology or philosophy major, then why on God’s green Earth would you enroll in those classes? Not out of sheer interest, I’m sure.
At JCU, students are required to take two theological courses, two philosophical courses, an issues in social justice class, a quantitative analysis class and numerous others. Why would I, a math-fearing digital media major, delve into the confusing, number-ridden world of statistics willingly? Put frankly, I wouldn’t, but if I didn’t take the course, I wouldn’t be able to graduate … something about not receiving a well-rounded Jesuit education. See what I mean?
While I’ve learned plenty in the wide range of required courses I’ve taken at John Carroll, I can’t imagine retaining the information I’ve learned from them long-term, or even wanting to, for that matter. In fact, when we finally concluded the existential phenomenology chapter in my philosophy class, I vowed to never read another excerpt from Jean-Paul Sartre or Maurice Merleau-Ponty ever again. I don’t know if I truly learned anything about existentialism, but if I did, that knowledge is gone forever. Or is it?
Core curricula aren’t exclusive to Jesuit schools, either. National colleges and universities require undergrad students to take courses that are “irrespective to their choice in major.” Higher-ed institutions claim these courses diversify the learning experiences of college students when, in reality, they’re simply looking to deepen their pockets. If it weren’t for the four years’ worth of “experiential” courses I’m required to take, I would’ve completed my major in half the time. Hell, I would be a college grad by now.
While most all colleges and universities have a core curriculum in place, the Jesuit core is often more time-consuming and labor intensive. I mean, requiring students to take TWO theology courses and TWO philosophy courses? How will those two subjects (realistically) assist me in my future endeavors? The Jesuits had a pretty rigid set of ideals concerning higher education, and their benefit to me (and all other communication majors) is essentially nonexistent. While Ignatius’ religious beliefs and spiritual practices are extremely significant today and have left lasting impacts in the Catholic church, his stance on education is entirely outdated.
Let’s backtrack for a second. When I was in high school, I was beyond excited to go to college, as I wanted to enroll in courses that I truly wanted to take. From grades nine to 12, I was forced to take classes in mathematics, science, social studies, English and a foreign language. I couldn’t wait to break away from the rigid curriculum my high school offered, and I truly believed that higher education was my escape route. However, little did I know what John Carroll University had in store for me: a core curriculum with nearly identical requirements.
When freshmen first move on campus, they’re typically overwhelmed and confused to begin with. They schedule their classes on their own, and often aren’t sure which courses they’re supposed to take. Personally, I struggled to find classes that had open seats, as every undergrad students is required to take the same types of courses. While I’m already required to take classes specific to my major, I have the added burden of core classes. Not to mention having an on-campus job, an internship and running a club. The Jesuit curriculum sure is convenient, isn’t it?
While I appreciate the idea of receiving a well-rounded Jesuit education, I can’t help but be skeptical of its theological elements. For one, the religious ideals of college freshmen are typically formed already, and they can be difficult to change. For example, a student who’s been raised Jewish since birth likely wouldn’t be willing to compromise their beliefs for Christianity. I can also attest to this, as I’ve taken two very different theology courses, and don’t have the slightest intent to alter my religious views. All that really matters, I suppose, is that we’re expanding our horizons and gaining a well-rounded experience.
As a college junior, I now struggle to lead a balanced life because of my class load. The goal of any college student is to graduate on time, and the core curriculum makes it difficult to schedule classes correctly while balancing extracurricular activities. For me, 15 credit hours plus the added stress of internships and running a club is plenty, and I’d rather my classes be relevant to me, and specific to my major. Are the theology, philosophy and core curriculum courses I’ve taken interesting? At times, but I’d like to avoid 10 plus hours of reading each week if possible.
If your college or university has a core curricula in place, I feel for you. As college students, we’re expected to balance classes, extracurricular activities and internships all while maintaining a social life. While I’ve never struggled to manage my time, I can’t help but resent Jesuit educational ideals. A well-rounded education shouldn’t be forced upon students, especially when their beliefs are rigid and required courses are simply unappealing. Had Ignatius Loyola been a business major, would he bother taking a philosophy course or learn a new language just for the hell of it? I think not.