Dear editor,I appreciated the coverage of the philosophy minor in The Record last week and would like to offer some of my thoughts.
During the fall of my first year, I took the course Philosophy, Wonder and Existence with Professor Woodington, an adjunct who is no longer at GC. Now, in my fifth year, 160 credit hours later, I still remember it as being one of my favorite and most formative classes.
The topics we covered were completely unrelated to my film and communication studies, but I was fully engaged by the content. We tried to understand the fundamental questions of life, and it was the only time I was pushed to think deeply about what my existence means in a classroom setting.
I am really sad that other students have not gotten opportunities to take classes like this in recent years. I understand that the minor does not draw much traffic and would guess that the subject lacks the elements of career development that draw people to other minors. However, philosophy classes can have a tremendous effect on personal development. I hope that GC adds more classes to the course offering list so that students can continue engaging in philosophical thought, even if they don’t choose to pursue it as a minor.
Jackson Steinmetz is a film production and communication double major in his fifth year.
I recently read the article “Faculty debate dropping philosophy minor,” and as a recent graduate who entered GC with a philosophy minor, I had a lot of thoughts.
While I entered with a philosophy minor, I eventually switched to a Bible and religion major — but most people, upon encountering the lack of philosophy courses, simply drop the minor entirely.
It’s not that there isn’t interest in a philosophy minor; it’s that it has quite literally been impossible to get a philosophy minor for at least the past six years. Why? Because the funding for the Bible and religion (now the religion, justice and society) department has been continually cut.
In fact, as a Bible and religion major, I had a requirement to take a single introductory philosophy class. In my entire time at GC, only one philosophy course was ever offered — by an adjunct, and no one noticed that it was a requirement I’d need to get. So my senior year, I was faced with a graduation requirement I couldn’t fulfill. In the end, I did an independent study with Breanna Nickel, which was a wonderful experience — but it was no substitute for a full introductory course on philosophy.
I am currently pursuing a master’s in religion at Yale University, and while GC prepared me brilliantly for much of the work, I am far behind my peers when it comes to any knowledge in philosophy.
That said, there is value in philosophy courses beyond preparing students like me for graduate work. Students from all across the spectrum of disciplines consistently name philosophy courses as some of the most influential in their lives — courses that make you reflect on life and on the way you approach the world, giving you a grounding for how to think critically. Even if there isn’t a single person minoring in philosophy, there is still value in teaching those courses.
So, should the philosophy minor be cut? If staffing stays the way it is, it’s unreasonable and unfair to expect the department to maintain the minor or the courses included in it. But it says something about the character of a liberal arts college when it chooses to continuously underfund the very liberal arts that are so unique to that model.
The college clearly recognizes the value of philosophy in some areas — it’s apparently the focus of the new Honors Capstone that will be required of students in the honors program. So why won’t it fund philosophy for everyone?
Eli Reimer graduated from GC in 2022 with majors in peace, justice and conflict studies and Bible and religion.