LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Lawrence still losing its educational focus

Allison Augustyn ’01

I wish to continue the discussion brought about by my first letter to the editor, concerning the slow demise of Lawrence’s educational focus.

Professor Kern wonders to what I am objecting, claiming that I am somehow uninformed about the matter. I very clearly stated that I object to the trend toward embracing diversity with classes that are too specific for a liberal arts education. These classes, which focus on very narrow areas of study, threaten the traditional teaching of the Lawrence curricula. These new classes are now necessary requirements to obtain a B.A. Though diversity courses do not yet monopolize the core curriculum, I do believe that unless the students, faculty, and administration rethink the direction of Lawrence, these classes will become a permanent, and perhaps more prevalent, fixture of the curriculum.

I also did not criticize the caliber of the new faculty, though I question their respective areas of study. I simply stated that their hiring reinforces the administration’s dedication to these changes.

Before we can truly understand other cultures and diverse lifestyles (if anyone’s lifestyle should be discussed in the classroom), we must have a clear and focused understanding of our own culture. Only by studying the contributions that have created this nation and its history will we be able to adequately and tolerantly examine others’ contributions.

To illustrate: Ms. Miller is concerned that there are seniors who do not know the works of Paul Dunbar or Mitsuye Yarnada. My concern is that Ms. Miller may not have sufficiently studied the writers who created the context in which current artists become significant. And I am also concerned that this may apply to all students of Lawrence if current trends continue.

We did not enter Lawrence to become fashionable in learning about the immediate, and often fleeting, impacts on our modern world. We came to become educated about how to consider the time in which we live, reasonably, intelligently, and tolerantly. We cannot do this without a comprehensive understanding of our history. This understanding is accomplished by learning about and appreciating our predecessors (which includes Great Britain, the country from whence we came). I am tired of the “old, dead, white male ” argument. Such were the times—you cannot change this. And though politics are different now, and thankfully so, do not condemn those who were great simply because you are resentful of history. You do them, and our heritage, a great and ignorant injustice.

Let us first know ourselves, so that we can truly appreciate the diversity that exists in others without the aid of a textbook.