Letter to the Editor: Josh Langseth

Dear Concordia College,

I have just received word that effective today you have CUT YOUR CLASSICS AND LATIN MAJORS. I have a few things to say about that. Do you remember me? I am your alumnus; you, my alma mater. When I attended your hallowed halls, starting in 1999 at the tender age of 17, I learned that these phrases are Latin: you are my foster mother, it seems. I am your foster son.

My friends and family back home have kept me updated about your financial difficulties, and I grieve for them. You have been faced with hard choices in the face of regrettable trends in our particular historical moment, trends that will continue to spread further and grow worse before they get better. I am currently teaching the Classical languages at a private liberal arts college these days myself, and I can assure you that this story interests me on several levels, personal and professional. In short, I am not unsympathetic to the distress that has led you to this decision.

I do grieve for your difficulties, but now I grieve for the little Joshes out there too. The ones growing up in the middle of what everyone else considers nowhere, the ones who dream big and different and don’t fit in. You taught me to value that about myself. The Greeks had it right: the ancient Greek word for education (παιδεία) is also the word for “culture,” and education as a whole is fundamentally a communication and inculcation of a cultural value system first, and of skills to enact those values second. With your new majors in agribusiness and finance, you too now are joining in with a growing chorus of institutional agents telling our youth that a major field of study is only valuable insofar as it teaches us the tricks of separating people from their money. That we are only valuable insofar as we participate in that system. That art and language and literature and the nourishing of the soul are only quaint and peculiar hobbies. Mammon has won this one, and Christ wept.

That’s not all, though. I would like to make a specific response to one point that is made in the official announcement of these changes. To the very reasonable question of why you would add new programs when you are cutting others, the given response is: “Together, new starts and program closures represent creative, purposeful change that positions our students to thrive and Concordia College to flourish as a future-oriented liberal arts college of the church.” This, I’m afraid I must point out, is a complete dodge of the question.

Let us leave aside the rather high-minded argument that the history of the Lutheran church is inseparable from Classical education as an institution. For the moment I can even leave aside the observation that cutting several humanities majors to replace them with a few business majors is at least in tension with your stated mission as a “liberal arts” college, as I argue above.

Instead, I would like to focus more closely on the strategic plan for growth that you mention in your announcement and the tragic misguidedness of your final decision. Your strategy of adding more business degrees is not “creative,” as you seem to think it is. Everyone is doing it. It is not even a prudential course of action, since you cannot compete with NDSU for agribusiness majors, nor with MSUM for finance majors. With two state schools right next door, you cannot hope to survive by trying to be more like them. You won’t win that game. You have betrayed your liberal arts mission in a deal with the devil that will not save what is left of you. I grieve for you, foster mother, and I miss you.

Love,

Josh Langseth

Class of 2003

This article was submitted by Josh Langseth, contributing writer.

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