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Opinion: Cutting philosophy threatens Loyola’s Jesuit identity

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Oanh Nguyen

Oanh Nguyen

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Oanh Nguyen


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BY OAHN NGUYEN

PHILOSOPHY/PSYCHOLOGY JUNIOR

During my freshman year, I was lucky to be able to take the course “Philosophy of the Human Person.” In the course, we talked about many topics, including the meaning of life, mind-body dualism and God. This pushed me to think outside the box and wonder about the world around me.

The next year, I took the course “Ignatius Loyola.” It was life-changing to learn about the determination of St. Ignatius and how his Spiritual Exercises inspired people to reflect deeply. I learned so much about myself in the course by thinking deeper about what I want in life. I decided to minor in philosophy with the hope that I could live out the mission of the school and find meaning in giving back to others.

However, the courses that made me reflect in this way are under threat. Beginning in fall 2016, there was a significant reduction in philosophy course requirements in the new common curriculum, the “Loyola Core.”

Dr. John Sebastian, who proposed the Loyola Core for approval, said the “primary concern is whether or not we have the curriculum that will enable students to graduate in a timely fashion.” He also said that students thought there were too many common curriculum requirements and that needed to be trimmed down to ensure they had time to focus on their majors. The resulting targets were, in part, philosophy courses, because people thought there were already too many humanities courses.

Philosophy and theology studies are one of the three central tenets of the Paris Method, the 450-year tradition on which Jesuit education is based. St. Ignatius chose this method because he believed that students could make their lives and other people’s lives better by learning about great thinkers and then developing their own philosophies. St. Ignatius believed that a good education was not only about learning skills, but about learning values and finding meaning.

So, while graduating on time is important, philosophy is a vital part of the Jesuit tradition, and students know when coming here that they’ve signed up for the whole Jesuit package. Cutting philosophy courses contradicts the Loyola vision statement and the tradition of Jesuit education.

My favorite part of the vision statement is the first sentence, “education of the whole person,” which includes “head and heart, intellect and feelings.” Philosophy courses help students use these faculties to make responsible, value-oriented and principled decisions. Critical thinking is an important aspect of Jesuit education because it helps students “to embody the Ignatian ideals of faith, truth, justice and service.”

I believe that people must reflect on who they are and their passion before they can learn how to best give back to others. Furthermore, critical thinking is an important skill for students of all majors. Therefore, there should be more philosophy courses in the Loyola Core, to allow students the opportunity to learn this skill and be educated as the “whole person”.

I read the vision statement before applying to Loyola and reread it before I paid my deposit and committed myself to a Jesuit education for the next four years. I did not fully understand the Jesuit ideals at first, but I learned that Loyola is the place that would give me the opportunity to find myself and my passion.

Taking philosophy courses pushed me to ask more questions about my life. However, it concerns and saddens me that philosophy requirements are being trimmed down as incoming classes are enrolled in the Loyola Core, yet it seems the number of objections toward philosophy on this campus is going up.

It breaks my heart when people make negative comments when I proudly tell them that I am minoring in philosophy. I wish that they could understand more about its importance to our Jesuit education and be proud that they are a part of it.

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1 Comment

One Response to “Opinion: Cutting philosophy threatens Loyola’s Jesuit identity”

  1. Leo McLean on August 30th, 2017 9:44 pm

    I’m 81, a 1958 journalism graduate. In my student days, we spent countless hours learning and practicing how to use the mass communications technology of the day. By the time I was 40 most of this, except for whatever writing skills I gained, were mostly irrelevant. Today they are completely irrelevant. The only knowledge I gained at Loyola and continue to value today is what I picked up in the mandatory philosophy and theology courses. For Catholic journalism majors, that meant eight two semester hour theology courses and six three-hour philosophy courses. If you also were in ROTC, mandatory for males the first two years and necessary for cash-strapped upperclassmen, that meant a typical load of 20-22 hours each semester. Yes, we did complain. I am not complaining today.

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