I think Paideia is unnecessary

Fine, I’ll say it:

I think Paideia is unnecessary.

Let me repeat that statement for the purpose of dramatic effect.

I, a first-year Communication Studies major, who has a self-professed love for reading and writing, and who signed up for five extra English classes in high school (including PSEO and AP) to avoid taking math and science courses, think that Paideia — the pièce de résistance of the Luther College academic curriculum — is unnecessary.

Don’t get me wrong: I actually like Paideia. In fact, most of the time I really enjoy discussing the course materials and writing about the themes in the various books we read in class. But in my brief semester-and-a-half at Luther, I’ve come to realize that Paideia is irrelevant to a majority of the student body, and creates an environment where the amount of stress the course creates is nowhere near balanced by academic enrichment.

Now, at its core, Paideia functions as an English and philosophy course. The program learning goals, especially for “Paideia 111-112: Enduring Questions,” make this clear; students will learn how to “read, comprehend, and appreciate various types of texts” and explore “questions central to the human condition”. While these goals make the course great for students with relevant majors and/or minors, the skills built in the course are not as useful to students interested in the fields of math and science. Let’s put this into perspective: just like taking a semester-long course on multivariable calculus would not help an aspiring author, doing critical reading and writing about Shakespeare and Plato wouldn’t be helpful to a Nursing major, or a Computer Science major.

Furthermore, when I say Paideia is irrelevant, I literally mean the physical class time spent in Paideia classes is irrelevant for some students. I’ve heard stories of people shopping on Amazon, working on assignments for other classes and watching YouTube during Paideia lectures, which shows how uninterested some students are in being in class.

It doesn’t help that during a student’s junior or senior year, they’re expected to take another Paideia course, Paideia 450. Luther, this is where you really confuse me. You watch all your students go through a complicated, exhausting course — and then your great idea was, “let’s make them do it again!” Really? I was told recently by an upperclassmen to only take Paideia 450 as a study-abroad course, because taking the class on campus was boring and “not worth it.” The last part of that sentence (the phrase “not worth it”) shows that for a lot of students, this is not a course students want to take; they’re required to take it. I understand requiring the course for students for one semester, and even for two. But a third semester of Paideia? That’s a lot to ask of students, even for me, the English class fanatic.

Also, let’s not forget about the stress levels Paideia creates. It really should be listed on the Paideia program website: “This course causes high amounts of mental and physical exhaustion in students.” It is my opinion that, in Paideia, there is not a trade-off between stress and knowledge. By this, I mean that at no point during the semester have I stopped and said to myself, “Hey, I’m very stressed out right now because of this class, but at least I’m writing about the questions and choices that matter!” That’s very concerning, not only because of the ramifications for mental health of students, but because it supports a clear flaw in the American education system: grades and deadlines are prioritized over retaining knowledge and learning new concepts.

I enjoy taking Paideia, and have no complaints about the books, my professor, or any other Paideia professor at Luther College. What I am concerned about is the relevance of the Paideia curriculum; the skills and concepts learned in Paideia 111, 112, and 450 are helpful, but are not applicable to the career goals and aspirations of many Luther students. Moreover, the mental toll the class takes on students is clear and obvious, not just in first-years but also in upperclassmen who’ve had to go through multiple semesters of Paideia. I’m not looking for Paideia to be removed from Luther’s curriculum (although I could name quite a few people who are), but I am hoping that everyone at Luther becomes aware of my concerns.

Opinions expressed in columns and letters are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Chips or organizations with which the author(s) are associated.

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