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ISSUE 119 VOL 19 PUBLISHED 5/5/2006

Humanities lack finish: Majors should showcase fine work

By Jared Wall
Staff Writer

Friday, May 5, 2006

The first Senior Art Show opened two weeks ago, and the second exhibition is coming up. The event gives art majors a wonderful opportunity to display what they have been doing for four years and to express their individual strengths.

A capstone like the Senior Art Show is one that many other humanities-based majors lack. As I witnessed the show’s unveiling on April 23, I realized that art majors have a unique opportunity to share their work with friends, family and the community.

The art major compels students to produce a range of visual works, as opposed to other majors that are largely literary. I am an English major, which offers no distinctive seminar, and I have taken classes in other humanities departments.

While I am happy with these class options, I am worried that the work going on in many humanities departments is flying uselessly under the St. Olaf community’s radar. Do other people know what I have been doing for four years?

That is why additional steps need to be taken to share ideas and projects. Even though some humanity programs lack the option of doing a capstone project, majors still do work of which they are proud.

Many of these works come in the form of independent studies, which are an excellent outlet for creative students to concentrate on projects that interest them. But the prospects are too few, and departmental expectations are often low.

Departmental distinction is not the answer, with many departments setting the bar between a 3.5 and a 3.75 GPA to be eligible. Grade point average is no indicator of talent or intelligence, and it cuts out a large body of students who may have had a single class go poorly.

I suggest a change in the curriculum of the humanities majors. There should be an official forum in each department that encourages students to share their work with the community. Such a forum need not be obligatory, since not every student will wish to share or publish work, but there should be a built-in and easily accessible option.

I am not proposing arbitrary standards or senseless busywork. I believe there should be a departmental push encouraging students to share and to produce new and original ideas. Such a goal can only benefit students and the college. Every discipline has something unique to offer the community at large, and there should be an active forum for students to demonstrate their work.

Some may argue that official standards need not be set, and that the St. Olaf academic community itself should raise the bar. If that happens, great, but I see no such revolution in the forthcoming future.

In the meantime, wouldn’t it be nice to have a pre-established network to begin pumping our ideas into, and perhaps a chance to share the work that you have accomplished diligently for four years?

If we feel like we cannot compete creatively with other colleges and universities, then we should rethink our options. If you worried about the fact that you are in a largely literary or philosophically-minded major that gives you nothing explicit to illustrate, well then, perhaps this idea is for you.

If you feel, like I do, that there should be an easier way to start the creative process, then we should definitely think about getting St. Olaf humanities departments involved. Setting up seminar classes with the intention of sharing work and ideas with the academic and St. Olaf community is a good way to reach out, as demonstrated by the number of people who attend the Senior Art Show.

Staff Writer Jared Wall is a senior from Sioux Falls, S.D. He majors in English with a concentration in Middle East studies.

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