Core 399 pros and cons

Josh Meribole—Staff Writer

Freshmen begin their college experience with Core 100. Juniors and seniors end it with Core 399. Core 399: Calling, Task and Culture is the final Core class required of Dordt students.

Core 399 is structured differently than most Cores, with professors selecting topics based on their interests and not necessarily fields of study. This year, the topics being covered are nicknamed Failure, Fighting Fair, Euthanasia, Control, Place and the Apocalypse.

Like many Core classes, the course is met with mixed reviews by students.

Once classes begins, students spend the first four weeks meeting with the subsection professors to discuss the topic of discipleship before moving into smaller mentor groups. In the discipleship section, students are taught about what it means to be a disciple and discuss how their “cultural toolkits” influence them in addressing issues or topics in the world.

Bethany Van Eps, a junior in the Place section, has a positive view of the course and says that addressing her subsection’s question—“How big should my lawn be?”—has benefitted her.

“Everyone has different ways of connecting to their places and it’s interesting to see everyone interact with each other about that,” said Van Eps. “[Core] 399 has challenged how I think about the world, [and taught me] to really analyze what I am doing and what assumptions enclose my actions.”

Professor Howard Schaap, the “mentor” of the Place group, says the main goal of the subsection is for students to know and understand what harms or helps the places they live.

Van Eps understands why students don’t enjoy the course, but she sympathizes with the institution’s choice to make the course mandatory.

“I think Core 399 all comes down to personal application,” said Van Eps. “Like all classes, they [professors] can’t make you learn something, they can’t make you apply something… They can only you give you the tools to learn.”

She argues that throughout four years of college, it’s easy to forget why students have chosen to go there in the first place. Core 399 is a useful way to remind students of what they have learned throughout their time at Dordt.

Senior Michel Gomes is currently in the Euthanasia section, which explores why people choose physician-assisted suicide. Although Gomes says that his class is engaging, he believes it is one-sided.

“Too many times, the conversation just does not address the issue [euthanasia] as a whole because we are too limited by looking at it from a Christian point of view,” said Gomes. “A lot of the discussions are very one-sided. We need to see the broader picture.”

He says that at times, the class feels like indoctrination because other perspectives are not explored.

“[Core] 399 does not prepare you for, say, going into the workforce or even knowing how to balance your personal views with that of others,” said Gomes. “Because again, the premise is that reformed thought is the only way. If it is not spelled out, it is implied. I don’t see the point of the course, because it is not teaching you to think critically.”

Professor Donald Roth, the mentor of the Failure section and one of the three people responsible for the course, says that surveys are given to students to help improve the course each year. He also teaches the initial discipleship classes with Schaap and Prof. Abby Foreman.

Roth says he hopes Core 399 inspires students to learn to care and be concerned with what is going on in the world.

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