Among the five characteristics of a Jesuit education is developing an understanding of the world’s interrelated cultures. Through Loyola’s Jesuit education, students are expected to engage with the world around them. Professors of all areas of study need to foster that by placing more emphasis on current events.
“You [have to] look at things from the perspectives of other people or you’re not going to understand other people or where they’re coming from, and current events can help a lot with that,” said Brian Endless, an international relations professor at Loyola.
Requiring students to read the news broadens their understanding of the world around them. If Loyola’s aim is to produce well-rounded graduates who “lead extraordinary lives” as its mission states, implementing a university-wide current events mandate needs to be at the forefront of the university’s educational objectives. Whether it’s through quizzes, presentations or another form of current events curriculum, this kind of requirement would help students gain a more robust and mature understanding of the world around them.
Professors across numerous disciplines at Loyola, from political science to chemistry and journalism, incorporate a current events element to promote awareness and prompt students to read the news and stay up to date with world happenings.
“Many of my classes are about making people better citizens and better individuals by making them both informed but also engaged,” Endless said. “To get engaged, you have to have more information.”
As a part of some of his classes’ curriculum, Endless has students present current events of the past two to three weeks. His students have to expand their search to news items not strictly related to the United States as a requirement in international relations classes.
Broadening the scope of news read is critical to staying informed on all fronts of a topic. With the rise of social media came echo chambers, where viewpoints are repeated by groups of like-minded people. As a liberal arts school where students are required to take classes in areas beyond their major, it’s important to avoid being sucked into a vacuum of political bias in the news. Al Jazeera, headquartered in the Middle East, is one unbiased outlet Endless encourages his students to follow.
More professors need to promote this type of informational diversity in their classrooms — a space where they have a platform. All classes have the basics, but what good is teaching us about things of the past if we can’t apply them to what’s happening today?
The world is changing every day, new information and events can change the educational community and how students learn their respective subjects. Current events keep us informed but it also broadens our minds to other perspectives that aren’t always represented in history books.
“All the fundamental stuff we teach in the class was, admittedly, done a long time ago by a bunch of male Europeans and the scientific community does not look like only male Europeans anymore,” said James Devery, an assistant chemistry professor at Loyola.
He takes time once a week to discuss a modern scientist and their work, oftentimes women and people of color. For Devery, it’s important for students to know they’re capable of making new, groundbreaking discoveries, so they need role models that look like them.
We’re witnessing professionals with different backgrounds rising to the top of their fields and we should be recognizing them in our classrooms and acknowledge that the work being done today is as relevant as work done last century.
Scientific literacy also allows students to think critically in all aspects, including taking in the news and statements from politicians.
“That little bit of literacy is enough to ask the question, ‘Are they right?’ because if you’re able to ask that question then you’ll just start looking [for answers],” Devery said.
Being able to take those critical thinking skills learned in chemistry and applying them to politics is exactly the sort of interdisciplinary action needed to be able to have a well-rounded understanding of the world. Building a common basis of knowledge of current events cultivates this overlap leading to more stimulating conversation and, as Endless stated, empathy toward differing views.
Current events typically aren’t lighthearted or fun, but the tough conversations about, as Devery put it, the “doom and gloom” are necessary.
“You [have] to learn the bad stuff or you’re never going to fix it and you’re never going to know what’s out there to fix,” Endless said.