All programs need intellectual boost

Every spring quarter, while most students are busy studying cloud formations and the effects of sunlight on the skin, a sector of the senior class is madly tweaking their long-awaited honors projects. But I have trouble seeing how the honors projects’ unveiling is any different from a middle school science fair.

University Scholars have their hands held through the great works of literature. They question all their first principles the way Nietzsche said they would and then are treated to pizza and a play.

At the college level, students should already know that education is tough. At a university like SPU, an extra intellectual boost should be included in tuition and the school should be selective enough for a UScholars program to be superfluous.

I would be among the first to say a little academic competition is healthy. Even senior UScholar Alex McCrum admitted, "I’m a communist, and I appreciate a little healthy competition. With this ungodly amount of tuition, there has to be competition."

It is my hope the UScholars program is more than a recruiting tool, and that it does not only challenge those in the program, but rouses the intellectual level of discourse across campus.

An advanced program attracts the best and brightest students. Luke Reinsma, professor of English and director of the UScholars program, oozed with pride: "It provides extraordinary challenge for extraordinary people. My hope for the UScholars students is that conversations will spill out of the classroom into the hallways, into Gwinn, the dorms and elsewhere."

But since the UScholars program is intended to benefit those students who truly want an academic challenge, there ought to be more hard science and math majors in the program. Since it is heavily humanities-based, the program has an inherent flaw in that it favors students who hail from the humanities sector.

Caitlin Wasley, a senior physics major, is one of the few and proud non-humanities UScholars. "There are four (Text and Context) classes but only two Faith and Science classes," she said.

Even the physics classes are humanities-based, which turns off many non-humanities folk.

"Science-based students are so busy that being a UScholar as well is demanding because it’s more interdisciplinary," said senior UScholar Christye Estes.

You don’t need to be a UScholar to be smart. McCrum said UScholars are just a cross section of SPU students who care about their education. Still, leveling the playing field wouldn’t help anything. Egalitarian education is a politically correct bandwagon. Education is by its very nature elitist. And the weaknesses of the UScholar program are a microcosm of SPU as a whole.

When senior Christine Widstrom dropped out of UScholars after her sophomore year, she recalled, "In UCOR 3000 I didn’t have to engage in anything whatsoever. … I could focus on my other courses."

While the UScholars program offers an accelerated general education track, all a regular undergraduate needs to pass these courses is a pulse.

There has to be middle ground for students who want an intellectual challenge but aren’t in UScholars. There is a way to raise the caliber of general education while still maintaining the level of healthy competition the UScholars program offers. It’s called an end to student apathy.

"SPU gives into student pressure too much. We like grade inflation. We like getting A’s. We like it easier," McCrum said. Even at a liberal arts university, students are more interested in getting gen eds out of the way than they are with getting a well-rounded education.

SPU claims to graduate students of "competence and character." I wonder – besides the 40 or so students churning out their honors projects – why stop at "competence?"

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Title: All programs need intellectual boost | Author: Kaitlin Nunn | Section: Opinions | Published Date: 2009-04-29 | Internal ID: 111