Letter: Core Bio needs immediate reform

Student support critical to resolve Core science issues.

By Letter to the Editor

Your recent editorial (“Useless to the Core”) is, unfortunately, probably the least controversial opinion ever expressed on this campus. The criticism of Core Bio, that it “sucks,” is old news to undergraduates, and sadly appears more like fact than opinion. To fuse some analogies, we are like deer following each other off the cliff in search of the oncoming headlights. Even though we know Core Bio will be even worse than our Hum writing seminars, we click “request” for the class without putting up much of a fight and alter our remaining schedules accordingly.

Certainly there is no doubt that biology deserves a place in our busy Core education. We ought to know how we “grow from more to more,” and through what processes can “life be enriched.” In keeping with our motto, our traditional liberal arts education comes with a rich history of academic integrity, intellectual investigation, and serious, meaningful inquiry. As your editorial notes, Core Bio and many physical sciences classes are simply not currently upholding these educational values. As a course with widespread structural confusion, a misguided pedagogy, and a glaring identity crisis, the current iteration of Core Bio does not merit its place in our core curriculum. Furthermore, besides devaluing our time and energy as serious scholars, Core Bio discredits the discipline of biology, dulling its value and repelling potential biologists.

These sentiments are hardly controversial among enrollees of the course. Up until now, however, this antagonism to Core Bio has remained just that: A simple and unproductive sentiment, expressed mostly passively and occasionally aggressively. To continue to reiterate these feelings though, as all of us “deer” have, will not result in the evolution of the course. Instead there must be productive action, spurred by an educated discourse, by students (and for students) in order to actually change the current stasis. I want to credit the maroon for publicly igniting this important discourse. Suggestions as to course re-structuring, area focusing, and great text approaches are invaluable first steps to changing the status quo.

Still, more needs to be done; luckily, more students than just the maroon Editorial Board have strong views regarding Core Bio. Accordingly, as a matter of interest to a substantial proportion of the campus, there ought to be more than enough support to begin a real reform of this aspect of our education. Working groups, investigative and research committees, open forums, faculty consultation, lobbying of the administration, and reform proposals are all possible components of the path to a better biology requirement. Surely we can apply the valuable skills taught in the other Core classes to fix this problem. But unlike our other classes, this project will require more than our educated thinking—it will require educated action.

To be sure, there are students who will disagree with me, and who have disagreed with their peers and the maroon on the status of Core Bio. Many will say that the class has ups and downs, certainly some flaws, but on the whole is “OK”. To these students, I would note that as students at this University, we expect far more than an “OK” education. We expect that our attendance, and our mammoth tuition costs, will be answered by more than mediocrity. A student should have the opportunity to be amazed and shaped by the brilliance of Darwin, and not just Marx. There is no reason to wallow in misery any longer: I have already had enough halfway through the quarter. If you would like to help change the future of Core Bio, of the curriculum, and of our campus and student body, then act on those intentions. To join the action, send an e-mail to chicagocorebio@gmail.com, and let us begin to make the appreciation of Core Bio just a bit more controversial.

 Stephen Lurie, Class of 2013