Core Knowledge

by jmccoy3 on April 21, 2022


Core Knowledge

Christina Charie ’25

The Providence College core curriculum builds analytical skills with a focus on close reading and writing. While the current requirements cover a broad range of topics, there is always room for new perspectives. Different requirements would offer benefits to students in an ever-evolving world. A foreign language and global history requirement would increase the diversity of the core curriculum while teaching content not discussed in high school.

The Development of Western Civilization Program supplies an excellent focus on historical text analysis. However, a global history requirement would incorporate more content that DWC is not able to address, either due to time or content restrictions. In an increasingly global society, understanding a variety of cultures besides one’s own is imperative. While DWC aids in this matter, unique history classes are engaging for students of all majors and disciplines.

Additionally, providing a new perspective during courses already in the curriculum might provide clarity. As Dr. Robin Greene, Professor of history and classics said, “Ancient Romans, among whom are counted a variety of peoples whom we would identify as peoples of color today, would never understand themselves as belonging to the same ethnic group as, say, Germans. Ethnicity and what we call race were perceived in the ancient world—and were also real issues—but not at all in the same way as they are today.” While written texts may originate from similar geographical areas, the perspectives can be drastically different. At the same time, one cannot expect modern views on issues such as ethnicity to apply to ancient cultures in the exact same manner. While using familiar concepts is helpful, it is important to keep the distinctions in mind as well.

Presentation is critical to engaging students in history. As Dr. Jennifer Illuzzi, director of the Development of Western Civilization Program states, “Reading a text is a personal experience, and every person brings their identity and their selves into the textual interpretation. We can bring an awareness of that fact into our DWC program.” Many students desire to see a piece of themselves in the authors discussed in class. Therefore, the course should show how people viewed their own cultural identity within historical society. This is particularly true for ancient cultures, in which views are inherently unlike contemporary ones.

A language requirement also corresponds with the ever-changing global workforce. Greene, has noticed “experience in another language gives an automatic leg-up to our graduates in just about any industry.” The course would allow students to expand upon the foundation from foreign language studies in high school, either by diving deeper into the study of the same language or through knowledge of another language. In the end, a foreign language class has a massive practical part. Additionally, Greene does not see how “any amount of study in English can foster the deeper understanding of another culture that the study of their language facilitates.” Ancient Greeks would not have a word for cell phones. The same technicalities exist when modern English speakers discuss Homer, for instance. English words might not fully describe a feature of ancient culture. Greene continues to describe how “language gives shape to our perception of our world, and translation is a poor substitute for that.” In the end, translation cuts elements within the text, such as rhyme, for English speakers. However, meaning is lost along the way that would be present in the original language.

As Greene says, “Greeks, Romans, ancient Jewish people and so on can’t and shouldn’t be understood as ‘white people in togas.’” To fully understand the experiences of historical people, one must try to step into their shoes. This includes developing knowledge on new experiences through the study of language and culture. Ultimately, education promotes unity and diplomacy, which is imperative given the current geopolitical situation. Hence, diversity and foreign language requirements must be emphasized in the curriculum.