As a Georgetown freshman, I felt like an academic refugee on campus – impatient to get my bachelor’s degree, my passport to the working world. My academic life on the Hilltop was a random spree of exposure to courses designed for my short-term memory. Georgetown failed to challenge me any more than my high school did to sharpen my “critical thinking” skills, the art of writing and presenting an argument. These skills are necessary to succeed in the world beyond Georgetown, where one cannot suck up to professors to determine how they would like a report written for a crunch deadline. Therefore, a sense of inadequacy develops about my academic skills, as does an uncertainty about what I need to do to succeed in the working world.

Although students study varied courses in the spirit of the liberal arts education, there is an absence of a program at Georgetown that empowers students to harness the accumulated information from their courses. In my freshman English course, I studied cultural criticism; in my freshman proseminar, I studied imperialism and resistance; and in my theology course, I studied biblical literature.

I did gain valuable knowledge and perspective from such courses. They did expand my understanding of diverse cultural and political subtleties. Nevertheless, Georgetown did not provide me with a mechanism for synthesizing the information. Students are left to roam for themselves in figuring out how to use their knowledge and understanding to compose an argument in written form. For instance, since each course has its own format of essay-writing (composition) for papers, students have to ascertain how each professor wants the essay to be written. As a result, students waste valuable time and effort.

The major cause for this waste of time is that many students do not have the basic skills for composing argumentative essays. In philosophy, I, along with hundreds of other freshman students, read books such as Plato’s “Republic,” Aristotle’s “Ethics,” Hobbes’ “Leviathan” and Tocqueville’s “Democracy in America,” each in about one and a half weeks, which included the professor’s hour-long lectures twice a week. Guess what? We only wrote two essays for the semester, and I never read or studied how the experts debate and write essays about such subjects.

For the final paper, the philosophy professor, like the other professors, simply handed us the essay questions and said “good luck” without providing any guidance about what constitutes critical thinking when writing the final paper.

The student’s problem is two-fold: Too little time is invested in the subjects and the lack of instruction surrounding the ability to critically express the gained information in writing. Thus, this critical problem is beyond not understanding the studied topics: It is the deficiency in not knowing how to critically express whatever information the student may have understood during that short period of time.

Georgetown needs to have a program that explains to students what nebulous expressions such as “critical thinking” mean in the academic world of the Hilltop. What does it mean to be a critical thinker without the suffocating hyperbole? How does one critically argue in the written form? Is not there some skeleton to fill in so that students do not have to waste time investigating professors’ preferences for essay writing? Georgetown needs a program to explain these questions and give its students enough time – preferably more than one hour per class – to acquire and internalize the skills of reading and writing critically.

With Georgetown’s current, messy writing scheme, students will not advance beyond their high-school-level academic skills. English class may teach students how to think critically about the specific studied topic such as cultural criticism. But it does not necessarily teach Georgetown students how to read and write critically in general.

Students need more than Georgetown’s writing center in the Lauinger Library. Students need a class to teach them how to read and write critically. Georgetown should move beyond telling us “good luck” when it comes to understanding the meaning of “critical thinking.”

I hope it does not solely remain the responsibility of the student – especially the innocent freshman student – to figure it out in a university with a $53,000 price tag.

Loghman Fattahi is a sophomore in the School of Foreign Service.

THE HOYA has revamped its blogs. Check out our sports blog, newsroom blog and neighborhood blog here.

Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.

Comments are closed.