Villanova’s College of Liberal Arts core curriculum needs adjustments

Deanna Passaretti

Most colleges in the U.S. follow a similar system that mandates certain classes a student must take in order to graduate.  At many of these colleges, Villanova included, these classes are known as the core curriculum.  Every school has a choice of how many classes are to be a part of a core curriculum and which classes business students must take next to how many classes arts students must take. While the idea of a core may have great intentions, especially since it is so important for every person to be a well-rounded individual come graduation, there is definitely a limit on how much core is necessary.  

For students enrolled in the Villanova College of Arts and Sciences, the extensive core curriculum is as follows:  Ethics (1), Fine Arts (1), Core Literature and Writing Seminar (1), Theology and Religious Studies (2), Social Sciences (2), Science (2 + lab), Diversity Requirement (2), Augustine and Culture Seminars (2), Philosophy (1), History (1), Mathematics (1), Foreign Language (2).  That totals to 18 classes or 20 if the two labs are counted—How much is too much?  Most students only take 15 to 16 credits a semester, so even if the student were to take entirely core classes in a 16 credit schedule, it would take just over three semesters to complete these requirements.  Maybe that doesn’t seem like too much, considering most students will complete eight semesters during their time at Villanova, but if a student takes all core classes for three semesters to get them out of the way, then how will they know if the classes they are actually interested in, the classes about their prospective major, are the right ones for them?  Since Arts students have to declare a major by the spring of sophomore year, that would only leave the student one semester to try to take a class they were interested in and figure out what to do with their life.  

In high school, the “core curriculum” is almost the entire curriculum, as there are state laws mandating a student take math for so many years and so on, but college is not the time to be dictating a student’s education.  

College is supposed to be the time when a student can branch out and explore, trying to decide what career path to pursue when this exploration passes by.  Having so many core requirements greatly diminishes the exploration process by forcing students to take classes they will never use the information from in their lives after college.  For example, my freshman year at Villanova I was forced to take two semesters of Spanish based on the level I was placed in from a test I took over the summer.  Had I scored lower on that test, I would’ve had to take four semesters of Spanish before fulfilling the core requirement.  That would be two years of a language I have no interest in using, or learning for that matter, and will not pursue in my career.  

I’ve taken Spanish for 12 years now and am nowhere close to fluency, so sitting through this last semester of foreign language really feels like a waste of energy.  Wouldn’t it be more beneficial to me to be taking classes that I’m considering pursuing a career in, rather than trying to memorize some Spanish to pass the tests and then never use Spanish again in my life?  There is absolutely value in learning a foreign language to the point of fluency, but it’s one of those subjects that can’t be forced and yet is being forced upon the College of Arts and Sciences.  

What about the Mendel Science Experience?  If I choose to major in Communication, it’s really, really difficult to find value in learning about astronomy when I could be taking a journalism class instead.  High school is the time to be forcing students to take classes in all subjects so they can actually discover where their talents and interests lie, but not in college—students have that figured out because this was the role of high school.  

I’m dreading every second I will have to spend in the Mendel Science Experience because I already know how ungifted I am at science, not to mention how disinterested I am in the subject and most importantly how useless the information is going to be to me when I enter a career in writing.  I could say the same thing about math.  I would love to be able to spend my time at Villanova taking classes that I’m interested in instead of classes the administration wants me to be interested in.  

At least with some core classes, like Philosophy, one could argue that it’s valuable for a person in any career path to take the class because Philosophy teaches people how to think.  But Astronomy?  I’d like to see Astronomy defended for all types of careers.  

I’m not saying that Villanova and colleges with similar requirements should eliminate the core curriculum, but I think it would benefit all students if the administration worked to lessen the number of requirements. There are classes within the core that function as nothing more than a distraction for undergraduates and students should instead be encouraged to explore the multitude of classes offered by Villanova at their own discretion.