By Clara Kelvin-Grey
— Zero. The number of other university colleges (UCs) in the Netherlands with a compulsory pure Logic course. Although AUC is unique in this, other Dutch UCs have different approaches with the similar goal of encouraging the problem solving and critical thinking skills deemed necessary to become a good academic.
Leiden University College’s Liberal Arts and Sciences: Global Challenges program focuses on mathematical skills to solve real world issues in the compulsory courses Mathematical Modeling and Mathematical Reasoning. Meanwhile at University College Utrecht (UCU), the only compulsory course that students have to take is Research in Contexts, but Humanities students are also required to take The Humanities Lab. The first five weeks of that course focus on forms of analysis in cultural studies, while the second half concentrates on predicate logic. University College Roosevelt (UCR) offers a similar compulsory course for all Arts and Humanities students named Introduction to Argumentation and Rhetoric.
So why does AUC break the mold?
Dora Achourioti, coordinator of the Logic, Information Flow and Argumentation course at AUC, said that “logic is very abstract, and as such it trains the kind of reasoning […] needed for academic research.” As to why the course is mandatory, Achourioti explained that “students need someone to help them decide what they need. They need guidance.” Moreover, Achourioti thought, “AUC needs policies for all students,” and “the vast majority of students like Logic.”
According to an online survey taken by 323 AUC students, only ~52 percent like Logic, and ~47 percent found it had no relevance to their studies at AUC. Only about a third of students thought that Logic should be compulsory.
Not only do other UCs have different compulsory courses instead of Logic, they also offer a choice of course depending on major or ability. The reason for just the single logic course at AUC is that “different Logic courses would go against the ethos of the college and the spirit of liberal arts,” according to Achourioti. In fact, she believes that the logic course unites students, as they have to work and problem-solve together.
Students who are taking the course for the second time do not necessarily share this view. Bridget Nea, a first-year Humanities major taking Logic for the second time, said that in some ways she agrees this would go against “the ethos of the college.” She also found “the concept of forcing students to take a mathematical course that does not pertain to their field of study medieval in the first place.”
Nepheli Papadaki, also a first-year Humanities major doing Logic for the second time, said that by “making it mandatory, [it] eliminates this element of choice, and creates a high school atmosphere where several of your classes are pre-determined for you.”
Ana Tavadze is a first-year Humanities major who will be taking Logic for the third time next semester. “I can’t even describe how many times I’ve felt like I’m the stupidest person on Earth because I’m doing it for the second time […] I still don’t get it and I’m pretty sure I’m gonna fail again,” she explained.
So how do other UCs justify their choice of other mandatory courses?
Dr Patsy Haccou, coordinator of LUC’s Mathematical Reasoning course said that “there is no course specifically aimed at Logic or Critical thinking in the LUC first year curriculum. Development of these skills is supposed to be an essential element in all the courses.”
Dr Jocelyn Ballantyne, who teaches the Logic component of The Humanities Lab at UCU said, “I don’t believe that students benefit from being forced to learn anything against their will: you have to be open to the insights a study offers in order to benefit from it.”
Dr Michael Burke, Professor of Rhetoric who teaches the Introduction to Argumentation and Rhetoric course at UCR, explained that they have chosen not to offer a compulsory logic course because “we (UCR) are not a liberal science college but a liberal arts and sciences college. A pure logic skills course only really benefits maths and computer science majors.”
Taking Logic for the second or third time can be frustrating and counterproductive, with consequences for study abroad and individual course plans. “I am on academic probation and cannot go on exchange, which is also saddening. Help me out. Give me an alternative. Let me write a paper about Logic and apply it to my major somehow,” Papadaki explained.
Meanwhile, Nea is forced to consider leaving AUC. “I am not at university to take Logic. How can taking the exact same course three times enrich anyone’s academic life?” she said.
For Tavadze the consequences are not only academic, but also financial. She is worried that if she fails the course once more, AUC will ask her to leave, and according to their scholarship contract, she would be obliged to re-pay ~16,000 Euros for her first year here.
Despite the restrictions imposed by having to take the same course up to three times, AUC has a single policy for all. However, it seems that failing Logic is rarely due to a lack of effort or time input, as is the case with other courses. Gabriella Thompson, a first year who has failed Logic twice, said, “I get As and Bs in all my other classes with no problems.”
“Even though I worked very hard I’m still failing it. That proves that it’s not only about hard work. Honestly, I think it comes down to this: you either get it or you don’t. And if you don’t, you need a lot of luck to pass it,” Tavadze concluded.