November 20, 2018

Writer vs. Writer: DWC Program, Productive or Irrelevant to Learning Experience?

posted on: Thursday November 8, 2018

Photo of Aristotle surrounded by people.

Photo courtesy of Foundation For Economic Education.

by Elizabeth McGinn ’21

Opinion Staff

A liberal arts education boasts a little bit of everything, and Providence College’s iconic Development of Western Civilization (DWC) program epitomizes these liberal arts ideals. If students pay attention, they can optimize the program.

From Plato to Jefferson, and Augustine to Aquinas, the DWC program surveys the critical moments that comprise the occidental tradition. Each revolutionary pamphlet or transformative idea paved the way for society to be what it is today. No other program in the country, or even the world, can as coherently summarize all of the important aspects of Western civilization.

While some students lament that the topics covered in DWC are not useful or do not correspond to their major, the fact that every student graduates from this program is its best aspect. Sure, some math majors at other colleges will not have to read Paradise Lost, but by having all students do so, the College does its duty and provides a stellar liberal arts education—not to mention how extraordinary and well-rounded it looks on a résumé.

At other schools, students stay comfortably within their designated major and field of study. No exploration, no delving deeply into the world and the past, no mastery of other topics. With DWC, each student learns history, English, theology, philosophy, and more, while gaining a thorough understanding of how the world came to be what is it today.

Greek philosophical thought is a perfect example, for the ideas rooted in antiquity have pervaded throughout the years and had profound impact on Renaissance and Enlightenment thinking, which in turn engendered modern theories and thoughts. Who can trace such a legacy nowadays? Academics can, as well as every single PC graduate.

No class can possibly hope to cover all of Western history in such depth and detail in a semester; therefore, DWC lasts for three semesters and a colloquium semester, or four semesters and a colloquium semester for honors students. Although some students recoil at its long-lasting placement in their schedules, the precious time that is spent fleshing out lasting ideas or problems gives an opportunity for more reflection and learning.

Want to understand why modern society is sexist or racist? Look no further than the DWC texts: read how Aristotle thought women were deformed men, and how feminists dismantled the myths that Western civilization carried through the ages. See the echoings of Henry David Thoreau in Martin Luther King Jr.’s speeches and ideology that created a more equal country.

The DWC curriculum reflects PC’s commitment to a liberal arts education. Each student leaves the College with a deeper understanding and appreciation for the world around them. Be sure to admire, if not love, the DWC program now, because later, the knowledge gained will be astounding and brag-worthy.

 

by Alyssa Cohen ’21

Opinion Staff

Although the Development of Western Civilization (DWC) program serves as the backbone of the Providence College core curriculum, the course fails to consistently reinforce the versatile humanities background it was constructed to instill in all students. 

While developing a strong command of the humanities proves essential in fulfilling a well-rounded education, DWC encumbers students from achieving their academic potential in major required classes, and fails to provide an intricate comprehension of the evolution of the Western world. 

As the College offers academically rigorous classes across all fields of study, time remains finite, and inevitably, PC students are sometimes forced to cut corners in their academics.

A typical humanities major is assigned hundreds of pages of dense reading each week, math, science, and business majors must grapple with a litany of complex and abstract numerical, scientific, and economic concepts on a daily basis in order to succeed in their classes. 

To that end, when students are bogged down with homework, they fail to prioritize the hundreds of pages of DWC reading, but rather focus on thoroughly completing work for classes required for their major. In turn, many PC students consistently seek shortcuts in completing their weekly DWC assignments, such as skimming the readings, studying online summaries, or neglecting to read assignments altogether. 

Consequently, seminar discussions based on reading assignments often remain stagnant and unfruitful as the majority of students are merely versed in the superficial ideas of the work, if they are familiarized with the text at all.

This tedious phenomenon grows frustrating to professors, students who thoroughly completed the readings, as well as humanities majors accustomed to the dynamic text-driven discussions that occur in their major-required classes. 

While the structure of DWC should elicit productive learning opportunities, the sheer amount of required reading that many students, aside from lacking the time to complete, perceive as unstimulating, ultimately hinders seminar discussions. 

A potential solution to the deficiency of student drive to invest themselves in the DWC curriculum correlates with the lack of differentiation in course content. Most students express an exponentially greater enthusiasm for their DWC colloquia than the three standardized sections of the course, as they are granted a choice in the content they study.

To that end, the DWC program would benefit from allowing students the freedom to explore the material they find stimulating by implementing a colloquia-style format for all four semesters of the program. 

Essentially, in order to inculcate the versatile humanities background in students the DWC program strives to foster, the curriculum requires substantial reforms.

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