This semester marks the implementation of the University’s new Core curriculum — a much touted part of their five-year strategic plan, Momentum 2022. The change in curriculum moves away from the previously required Core of two history classes, two philosophy classes, two religion classes. Instead, incoming students are required to take courses in accordance with the La Salle’s Institutional Learning Outcomes (ILOs) and a first-year academic seminar. These ILOs are skill-oriented and, according to the University, their purpose is to guide students to four commitments by the time they graduate: Broader Identity, Expanded Literacies, Effective Expression, and Active Responsibility. All 12 ILOs are connected to one or more of these commitments through various means. Students are still required to take two English courses, scientific and quantitative reasoning courses and a religion course, in addition to fulfilling the requirements set forth through the ILOs.
While the implementation of a new Core may allow for more flexibility in students’ interests, it appears as though this is the latest step in the University straying from its liberal arts foundation. The Collegian believes that the change in curriculum, in conjunction with program prioritization that has plagued the University over the past few years, is detracting from a true liberal arts education that provides students with invaluable critical thinking, reading, writing and other soft skills that are necessary in almost every field.
The newest generation of La Salle students will be able to side-step an education that fosters the liberal arts by opting out of crucial classes, such as history and philosophy, which serve as a foundation for various upper level courses across multiple disciplines both through the skills they teach and the content they supply. While students could still take these classes, freshmen students may not find such academic classes as appealing, despite the integral role they could play in their education. In addition to developing critical thinking and writing skills, courses such as these typically cover content that serves as the basis for other concepts, such as Marx’s “The Communist Manifesto,” Machiavelli’s “The Prince” or Augustine’s “Confessions.” Students, through their own uniformed choices, may miss out on gaining essential background knowledge from the content of these courses – content they will need to perform well in courses they take later in their collegiate career.
The new Core does provide opportunities for students to take courses in financial literacy, technological competency and other useful skills guided by ILOs that will prepare students for life after La Salle by focusing on demonstrable skills. This changed curriculum also provides the opportunity for freshman to explore different fields they may not have considered previously. The new Core requires students to take fewer classes than before — though the number of classes needed to graduate is the same. This creates more space in students’ schedules to take on a double major or minor in addition to their primary area of study. The interest-driven nature of the Core provides opportunities for students to discover areas of study they would not otherwise have considered before. The University is also owed credit in their implementation of the Core, which they have poured resources into in order to make the inherently complex transition easier for faculty.
While the Collegian does commend the University for their efforts in easing into the new Core, we are also wary of the danger it poses to the essential liberal arts skills that define the education this institution provides and can allow students, through their own choices, to prioritize skills over content that is essential to a college education. It is too soon to tell what direction students will take when selecting their Core classes, but there is the possibility of La Salle straying from the liberal arts in favor of “skill” based courses due to the updated curriculum.
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