In place of cuts, respond with holistic departmental approach

Martel DenHartog (‘19)

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It is unfortunate that Luther is in a financial state that requires cuts to be made to some academic majors and minors, including the athletic training major, the dance major, the K-12 health education minor, the physical education minor, the secondary education minor in world languages, and the Russian language program. All of them benefit a liberal arts institution as they do not merely include vocational courses, rather they allow students to explore subjects and become more culturally competent. However, with these cuts, an expectation of holistic learning must become a prominent aspect of other disciplines.

The negativity circulating around campus that condemns these cuts negates the opportunity and obligation professors in every classroom have to engage their students and provide spaces tailored to developing “general intellectual capacities” as the Merriam Webster dictionary includes in its definition of liberal arts. Obviously, it is unrealistic to expect a biology class to teach Russian or to learn dance in an English class. Regardless, the mission of Luther values learning “beyond immediate interests,” and equipping minds to thrive in a changing society, which can be accomplished in any course. All professors have the responsibility to do this for their students and with fewer ‘liberal arts’ majors offered that expectation is even greater.

I am considering the neuroscience major Luther will offer beginning next fall. In this program, I hope to see pedagogy that values critical thinking skills and inquiry, like other majors should as well. I am currently in genetics, where connections and implications of genetic research and social issues are consistently mentioned in lectures. But in other courses I have taken I have been disappointed with the lack of connection to the broader world.

As a student who appreciates finding connections between subjects, I think Luther can do a better job of this. Making courses relevant to the world is what engages students. For example, an introductory Chemistry class should obviously include the fundamentals of the subject, but what if it also touched on the importance of science and inquiry in the world today? What if we discussed reaction rates in terms of combustion reactions and how these contribute to climate change? Or what if physical education courses were requirements of all education majors? With physical and mental health becoming higher priorities in K-12 schools, these courses could benefit everyone in the major.

The appeal to Luther should be the incorporation of a liberal arts attitude into all classrooms and having a large variety of majors offered. Our college doesn’t undervalue liberal arts, but recognizes that in order to keep majors and minors with higher enrollment in place, changes must be made. Luther is at a point where it must make decisions about what aspects of its identity it wants to highlight in order to stay competitive. Of these, having classes where learning is applicable and challenging as well as maintaining competitive financial aid packages should be top priorities. The elimination of certain majors and minors cannot take away from the value of approaching diverse ideas in every classroom at Luther College.


Martel DenHartog (‘19)

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