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Letter to the Editor: Tom Dukatz

Concordia isn’t BREWing if it doesn’t teach technology literacy

If you were hoping for an edgy airing of grievances about Concordia, this is not the article for you. While emotional vents can be fun to read and to write, they are also the easier path to take when confronting an issue. The liberal education promotes frequent self-examination and evaluation of one’s premises in a respectful and logical dialogue. With this tenet in mind, I will call BREW to the stand.

Whether intentional or not, “Becoming Responsibly Engaged in the World” has become a mantra at Concordia. As far as catchphrases go, BREW is arguably better than the competition from neighboring schools (with “Make Your Life Count” being the most pretentious I’ve heard in recent years). I have no qualms with the idea of responsibly engaging oneself in the world; in fact, I loudly endorse the principle. However, I would argue that Concordia’s implementation of BREW is lackluster. Particularly, Concordia’s core curriculum does nothing to give students technological literacy.

Problem solving exists in two parts: theory and application. Unfortunately, the world tends to view these as dichotomous; a person either majors in physics or they major in engineering. I have been fortunate to spend my summers working with some of the most brilliant minds in risk analysis, and it is apparent that the people making big decisions always understand both the theory and the application of their work. In fact, it is hard to make a fully informed decision without understanding both. The liberal education, which is one that prepares students to make decisions in civic life, should educate students in theory and in application, equally.

Concordia’s core curriculum teaches much of the ethics behind Becoming Responsibly Engaged in the World, but the absence of technology from the core curriculum leaves many students without means to apply the BREW ideology. This is not to say the core curriculum does not have strengths; a barrage of humanities, religion, art and science credits aim to teach self-examination, skepticism and the values of analytical thinking. Even the inquiry oral and written communications classes bridge the gap into application, as they teach students to present their ideas clearly. Despite these obvious strengths, though, Concordia still lacks requirements that would ensure basic computer proficiency; never mind that any student could drastically improve their chances at post-graduation employment by taking a single computer science course.

Data management, process optimization, and large-scale calculations are no longer computer skills that are only needed by STEM majors. Programs as simple as Microsoft Access and Excel have become cornerstones of countless enterprises, ranging from businesses to charities to colleges. In an age of big data, there are momentous ethical and moral decisions made in the intricate calculations of spreadsheets. Simply put, allowing students to graduate without these proficiencies is a travesty of higher education, and an embarrassment to our school.

I would be doing a disservice if I did not mention the great efforts to circumvent this problem. The business major has my utmost respect for requiring a 100-level course on basic computer proficiency. I have also found that computer coding is a large cornerstone of the math major and data analytics minor, largely due to the tremendous math department faculty under whom I have studied. There are certainly more examples, yet we should not restrict the power these skills provide to small fractions of our college. To be frank, students who are unfamiliar with basic computer applications like Excel and Access are falling behind in today’s technology-centered global economy.

Concordia simply cannot purport to foster responsibly engaged students when it does not require the most basic technological training. A technology-centered economy is not a monster that we should cower in fear from, but one that we should embrace and respect. Our world is changing faster than ever, the tides of change coming quicker and quicker. Let us harbor a learning community that produces scholars who champion this change, and truly Become Responsibly Engaged in the World.

This article was submitted by Tom Dukatz, contributing writer.

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