Lifeless or living?
Every University of Dallas student has had a personal experience with the Core curriculum. Almost two years of our time at UD is spent in classes outside our majors — an experience we somewhat readily accept and perhaps even take for granted. But in my experience as a UD student I have also met people within and outside the UD community who question the purpose of UD’s Core curriculum.
To many modern Americans, the Core would probably be seen as the elitist, impractical education of students stuck in the past of ancient texts and traditions. To this view, most UD students would fiercely object, but upon what grounds is our defense of the Core curriculum? Perhaps we are truly holding onto intellectual and literary traditions that need to be updated and replaced.
Keira Devlin, a freshman biology major, confessed that UD’s Core curriculum was one of the attractions for her attending UD. Devlin says she thinks there is wisdom to be gleaned from the Core specifically because of the age of many of the texts. “I think they’ve been around for so long,” said Devlin, “Because everyone can get something out of them no matter what that is or how deep that is.”
Hannah Sullivan, junior English major, said she thinks the Core is meant to help students become well-rounded, versatile adults. “Going through a two year process where you’re exposed to multiple fields of thought gives you a better perspective of life and sets you up for your major going forth from there,” said Sullivan.
However, both Sullivan and Devlin agreed that this holistic understanding of the Core is the product of personal development, with Devlin confessing many freshmen may not agree with her upon the value of the Core curriculum.
On the university’s official website concerning the Core it says, “The Core is an opportunity to inquire into the fundamental aspects of being and our relationship with God, nature and our fellow human beings.”
Dr. Scott Crider, professor of English, emphasized this threefold inquiry. The object of the Core is wisdom of humanity, nature and the divine, which is largely accomplished through philosophy, history and literature. These aspects, according to Crider, set UD apart from most schools.
As a UD student takes more classes, the intended Core-major complementarity hopefully breaks through, but there are still students who puzzle at the purpose of the Core in UD and in our modern society. To these students, the tradition of the Core is a fixed, closed mindset that is prohibiting the growth of UD students, especially in relation to current world issues.
I asked Crider whether he thought it was indeed possible for the Core curriculum to become outdated or if it could possibly have an immortality that many students want to impose on it. “The Core is a tradition,” said Crider, “And a tradition doesn’t usually expire or go out of date. Instead, it evolves.”
The idea of an evolving tradition at first seemed contradictory, but Crider elaborated, saying that UD’s Core curriculum has even changed since he started as a teacher here. “I think we too often think of our Core as settled, perfect,” said Crider, “That’s not true. It’s just a foundation, it’s just the beginning.”
The Core texts are meant to be read and reread as well as reflected on and discussed repeatedly. The Core cannot possibly touch on every aspect of past or current events or even all of human nature, but it is a starting point for a UD graduate’s continual self-education.
To one individual student who is concerned about the stagnation of the Core curriculum, any change in the Core may be imperceptible, but Crider assured me the Core is a living thing.
It is incorrect to see the Core as outdated or even unchanging, for the texts of the Core continuously yield many fruits, whether old or newly discovered.
By no means is the idea of UD’s Core curriculum a topic that can be dismissed or summarized with ease. The Core is an active being, which as a student matures, is to be discovered, but perhaps never fully comprehended. To degrade the Core as immortal and unchanging is a gross underestimation of western tradition, but to dismiss the Core as outdated is to misunderstand the humanity of traditional texts and to fail yourself.
The Core is not stagnant, but reactionary and alive and in conversation with us. “Simply taking the Core is not the same thing as being educated in it. You have to bring a spirit to it,” said Crider, “What do you give, what do you bring?”