|My school's incoming group of students - Class of 2017!|
I've been a university professor teaching theology at a liberal arts school for five years. When I first started teaching, I naively asked the students in my first class why they were taking my theology course, thinking that they were all registered for it out of enthusiasm for the subject. I received blank stares until finally one of the students bravely replied that they were there only because the university requires all students to take two theology classes for their degree. The rest of the students nodded their heads in agreement. Students were taking my classes not because they were interested in theology, but because it was a hoop they needed to jump through as part of their curriculum.
And some of them haven't been happy about it.
I love teaching, and I thoroughly enjoy my students, even those who wish they didn't have to be in my class. And because I think it is important to have open and honest conversations about education, and specifically about why I think students should study theology, I make time and space in my classes for students to express their opinions and thoughts openly without fear of retribution or judgement. In these conversations, students often seem confused about why they have to take classes outside of their major, and are particularly confused about why they would have to study things like theology, English, philosophy, math, etc. Others who perhaps recognized the value of studying the liberal arts still suggested that they shouldn't have to work as hard in their liberal arts classes as they do for the classes in their major, the unspoken assumption being that the liberal arts courses were less important for what really mattered.
Three questions continually pop up in my conversations with undergrads about a liberal arts education. They are:
- Why do I have to study anything outside of my major?
- Why in particular do I have to study theology, especially since I'm not religiously affiliated?
- Why do you make us work so hard for your class when it isn't my major?
Photo above from http://www.bellarmine.edu/news/more.asp?event_id=885