American Dilemmas course is not appropriate for all students

Cultural Foundations (CULF) classes are an important part of the St. Edward’s University curriculum. However, they are also a substantial amount of the curriculum, totaling six courses required for graduation.

One such CULF class, American Dilemmas, should not be required. The whole point of American Dilemmas is to prepare students for Capstone, where 25 plus pages must be written about a social problem.

In American Dilemmas, students pick an issue, collect stakeholders and sources on each side of the issue, and summarize this information into three sections.

The last section’s primary focus is the student’s personal opinion on the issue, backed up by sources. Of the entire 15 to 16 page paper, the student’s own opinions account for approximately two to three pages. 

Thus, the American Dilemmas paper becomes less concerned with students developing their own opinions and writing style, and more about regurgitating information retrieved from other writers into a pre-determined format.

In Capstone, the format and requirements are much the same as American Dilemmas, but on a larger scale. Students overwhelmingly agree that American Dilemmas teaches them little to no new information.

Students in majors like English writing and rhetoric or communications write many papers that require multiple sources. Through courses such as Text and Discourse Analysis, Interpersonal Communication, and Media Communication, students hone writing skills and ability to follow specific instructions.

Admittedly, many of students with majors involving less writing felt Dilemmas helped prepare them for Capstone. Conversely, many English writing majors found Dilemmas to be an unnecessary prerequisite to Capstone as they are already confident in their writing capabilities.

Due to the spectrum of student’s writing skills at St. Edwards, American Dilemmas should be optional. Students who feel already adequately prepared for Capstone through their previous classes should not have to take Dilemmas.

A valid criticism would be St. Edward’s concern over too many students skipping Dilemmas out of laziness but then consequently be overwhelmed in Capstone–which some students would do. This could be prevented through a variety of solutions.

Perhaps St. Edward’s could create a writing test for students to test of out of Dilemmas. This would make sense, since students are already able to bypass the American Experience CULF class through earned AP credit from high school. Overall, nothing makes American Dilemmas a more essential course than American Experience.

Also, St. Edward’s could review applications submitted by students with requirements like writing samples, letters of recommendations or a minimum grade point average, to ensure only prepared students bypass Dilemmas. 

Determining who does and does not take Dilemmas in this way would admittedly be a time-consuming process, but both students and teachers would benefit from Dilemmas being an optional course. 

Students who feel over-prepared for American Dilemmas often end up doing poorly because it is simply not challenging. 

Advanced writing students could replace American Dilemmas with an upper level course of their choosing. Professors could create more applicable lesson plans because the writing abilities of their students would be on a more even scale. 

Professors would no longer have to worry about keeping advanced writing students engaged without overwhelming others, which is what often happens in American Dilemmas classes. 

Essentially, American Dilemmas has merit, but not for all students. Thus, it should not be a required course for every student.