Loss of language programs a mistake for the liberal arts

Sidney Larsen, Sports Editor

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I came to Luther College because I wanted the opportunity to pursue both of my passions: French and science. I knew that choosing a Liberal Arts College was probably the best place I could do that because they value both the arts and math and science careers. But in recent years, I feel that this duality has drastically been reduced in favor of the sciences. With the creation of the neuroscience major and an ever–present need to churn out nurses and market to pre-med students, the languages have fallen by the wayside.

In the French department, specifically, there are only two professors currently teaching courses, and only one course above the 200 level is being offered this semester. The retirement of Dr. Ruth Caldwell last year left the department with only one permanent member of the French faculty, and no effort has been made to fill Dr. Caldwell’s position. As a student of the French department I think this is a gross oversight on the part of the college. Foreign language is immensely important to those who choose to take advantage of it and provides students with a myriad of benefits throughout all aspects of their lives.

For example, a study done by Pennsylvania State University showed that those who study multiple languages are often better multitaskers, and numerous studies have also shown that test scores throughout multiple disciplines, including math, have increased in correlation with taking foreign language courses. Not only that, but learning foreign languages helps students learn about other cultures and become more aware of the world around them.

The Luther College mission statement says, “As a liberal arts college Luther is committed to a way of learning that moves us beyond immediate interests and present knowledge into a larger world.” What part of a liberal arts education could do this better than foreign language? As a study-abroad student in Togo, Africa  I was able to learn about a way of life drastically different to our own here in Decorah, IA that has permanently changed my perspective on my own life. This would not have been possible for me had I not known the French language through learning at Luther College. As such, I strongly encourage Luther to keep funding language programs, specifically French, because I know for a fact that students like myself greatly benefit from them.

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One Response to “Loss of language programs a mistake for the liberal arts”

  1. Ronald Horwege on November 4th, 2016 10:58 am

    A few years ago I sent one of my students of German to Luther College after Sweet Briar College, where I had taught German for 43 1/2 years, had just eliminated German and Italian and cut down its offerings in both Spanish and French. In my humble opinion, it would be a big mistake at either of the two colleges to remove the foreign languages in order to emphasize the STEM courses. At a liberal arts college there should be space for both of these areas.