On March 6, the Augustana faculty will be voting on whether to keep Capstone in the general education plan. How then shall they vote?
I had a wonderful Capstone experience last spring semester. My class was called “The Ragged Edge of Life” and it focused on medicine and ethics.
Basically the class consisted of reading several assigned books about a range of topics including first-glance judgments, culture, homicide and the dying process.
When we got to class we would typically talk about the reading for a bit, but then dive into a new discussion on a different controversial subject. The class was in this way not focused on one specific novel or subject, but a variety of issues, which were all extremely interesting and relevant to modern society.
For example, one class period we watched a short documentary about a baby boy who was left with no penis after an experimental circumcision procedure in Canada. The doctor convinced the parents that it would be best to raise him as a girl, because the impact on his life would be more detrimental living as a man with no penis.
This lead to a discussion on not only what you would do as a parent if such a difficult decision had to be made, but also whether gender is determined by nature or nurture.
I admit I have sometimes felt frustrated when I have taken a class I do not necessary need for my future career. That is, however, the beauty of liberal arts. Augustana College offers classes such as Capstones to spread our knowledge and apply it to different situations we will come across in life.
While memorizing the parts of the body may be greatly beneficial to my future career as a nurse, will my patients ever ask me where the squamosal suture is located in their skull? Probably not. Will they face difficulties where I will need to have the ability to see their situation from their point of view? Definitely.
My Capstone class really helped me to see the world from a variety of angles and I really did learn so much from that class, even if it had not been memorized or taught in a traditional way.
My Capstone class provided a space for me to spend time discussing issues which most everyone feels strongly about. Everyone has opinions when it comes to ethical reasoning, but there is rarely a safe environment to discuss what we really believe to be true. It was a unique experience to bring in seniors from so many different majors and see how our perspectives differed and what our own biases and values were.
I believe that Capstone should not be eliminated from the general education plan. It really demonstrated that our learning will not end with the toss of our caps at graduation, but that there is always something more to think about in terms of interpreting the world around us. We have so many opportunities at Augustana for learning, but Capstone really helped me to see how much we have to learn from each other.
FALLS SHORT OF GOALS
It’s time for a change. After taking a Capstone course this past interim, I understand what all the seniors have been complaining about over the past years. The Capstone is designed to sum up everything we’ve learned and send the students off with a new perspective of what they’ve spent the past four years studying.
Unfortunately, it just doesn’t do this. My capstone course was a forced juxtaposition of ideas that simply did not fit together, and they did not contribute to the students’ learning, or even entertainment, in any way. Whenever possible, we all just zoned out.
Now, I took one of these classes as a junior, so it’s a little upsetting that they may now be voted out of the system. Still, I do appreciate that I had the chance to see what the big deal was, and it is a big deal. I could propose that we keep these classes just so everyone else has to experience the same emotions (boredom, confusion, exasperation) as I did, but I hope no one has to feel that way again.
These courses simply aren’t doing what they were originally intended to do. Somewhere along the way, they’ve warped into just another class. Professors just come up with an idea so they can teach something different, and sadly, the students just aren’t interested.
The majority of complaints I heard from my fellow classmates fell along the line of, “This just doesn’t apply to my major at all.” Shouldn’t that be what our final, all-encompassing class should do? It should be a final kicker for students to reexamine their time at Augie and focus on the future in the career they’ve chosen.
Once you’ve made it to your final year, you have some resemblance of a plan, however obscure it may be. Capstones should reflect this attitude by giving the students the most benefit possible. It does no good to anyone right now for students to be zoning out for an hour, three days a week.
I hope I’ve made it clear that I don’t want to do away with a final class or project in the Augie general requirements. I just think that our current Capstone isn’t what is best for the student body. We should develop classes taught by prominent professors in each field that can help students understand what is coming ahead.
Perhaps Augustana faculty could develop a single class (kind of like a third religion class) that focuses on moral reasoning and values that apply to all majors. Another possibility is a final research project. Many majors already have something like this, and it gives students the real-world experience that is absolutely invaluable.
If the faculty are not ready to put something like this in place, then we must do away with the Capstone now and begin working for something new in the future. At Augustana, we value excellence, but in this regard, we can do better.