Cornerstone failed colossally last fall. CORE 110, spearhead of the new core curriculum, forced freshmen to suffer a class related neither to their majors nor to their interests and lives.
Students packed into Cullen Auditorium each Monday for Spotlight Series lectures by notable community members and esteemed ACU professors from a variety of fields. Yet almost every week, regardless of the speaker’s background, freshmen complained of lectures reflecting the “Alien” theme too literally, with talk after talk focusing on illegal immigration.
Exceptions like Dr. Caron Gentry, Randy Harris and visiting speaker John Perkins, who co-authored the common reading Follow Me to Freedom, provided rare breaths of fresh air.
As discussion of the Spotlight sessions carried into Wednesday and Friday classes, students complained of stilted discourse about issues that seemed relatively irrelevant to their lives or aspirations.
And their professors teaching the courses struggled as well.
Cornerstone instructors received a syllabus, dictating the content and assignments of the new class. But it was not sent until mid-summer, far too late for them to adequately address concerns or tailor it to their teaching style.
As a result, students were force fed an overly simplistic and minimally compelling course about which neither they nor their professors were passionate or interested.
What’s more, clarifications on certain assignments failed to arrive until after the start of the semester, leaving professors regrettably unprepared to answer their students’ questions.
Some classes abandoned the prescribed curriculum early in the semester – to mixed reviews depending on the professor’s chosen alternative. Others stayed the course for the entire semester, leaving students and professors alike stressed and frustrated.
Although some freshmen can point out rare, redeeming qualities from single lectures or activities, many name relationships with their fellow students as Cornerstone’s only benefit.
Adding to the course’s failings, in replacing U100 with an abstract, conceptual course, ACU left its incoming freshmen unaware of the basics of college survival.
Key information covered in the previous freshman seminar course included such subjects as how to register, build a four-year plan and utilize university services like the counseling and writing centers.
Some professors made time in the course to cover this crucial information or allowed their peer leaders to instruct the students on these basic matters. However such information holes in the original syllabus unveiled an incomplete course.
At the end of the semester, course evaluations assessed menial matters, like whether the professor’s countenance was pleasant during lecture, leaving students wondering if the university truly wanted constructive criticism of the actual class.
If proponents of the new core curriculum want Cornerstone to usher in a transformed liberal arts education at ACU, they have six more months revamp the course into the valuable “Christian perspective on liberal education as a foundation for life-long integration of faith, ideas, and action,” it claims online.
As for last fall, the first significant implementation of core curriculum changes could not be described as “innovative, exceptional and real.” Rather, it seemed disorganized, hurried and misdirected.