Every January, students return to Calvin for Interim, a three-week-long class. During this time, many first-year students take a course that fulfills the required Developing a Christian Mind (DCM) common core.
This year, there are 36 classes offered that fulfill the DCM requirement. These range in topic from population growth and food security to mathematics and beauty. The goal of DCM classes is to incorporate the theology of Calvin into their various topics.
Joy Bonnema, pastor at Madison Square North, is teaching the course “Finding Your Voice and Letting Your Life Speak.”
“I’m greatly enjoying teaching DCM,” Bonnema said. “The arc of the gospel story is so comprehensive and its content so multifaceted and iridescent that the 40 sections [of DCM] barely scratch the surface.”
Some students, like first-year student Emily Roloff, are enjoying DCM.
“I personally like DCM. It shows how we can practice and incorporate our faith into our whole life,” Roloff said. “It’s all about the application. DCM teaches you the basics and how that works in the real world. It’s not just another Sunday school lesson.”
On the other hand, some students say that they do not like the required “developing a Christian mind” aspect of their class. Cornelius Plantinga’s book “Engaging God’s World” is used as a common curriculum requirement among the DCM classes, as it lays the foundations of the Christian Reformed Church’s (CRC) theology.
“The class is too similar to the first year seminar (FYS),” said Khiley Giles, a first-year student. “Between the religion class I took last semester and FYS, the topic is just too dragged out. It seems like kind of a waste of time.”
“I understand why they have the class,” said first-year student Robyn Stegink. “But after growing up CRC, it seems unnecessary and repetitive. It’s all already been ingrained in me. I enjoy the other parts of my class. But with the readings, quizzes and discussions, it’s just a lot of the same thing.”
When Calvin was founded in 1876, the student population was entirely Dutch CRC. Today only 35.9 percent of students are of the CRC, according to Calvin’s 2014 Fall Day 10 Report. With only one-third of the student population identifying as CRC, some students believe that the basis of DCM is no longer applicable.
“DCM provides a good CRC foundation,” commented Danae Van Stelle, a first-year student. “The problem is that it’s a foreign topic to over half the class. Calvin doesn’t have as many CRC students as it used to. The ideas still apply, but maybe it shouldn’t be stressed as much.”
Mishaya Boss, a sophomore, took “Music as Therapy” during her first year.
“I think the idea of DCM is a good one, but DCM doesn’t help you develop a Christian mind,” Boss said. “I don’t think that the classes are equipped for doing that. In my class last year, I could easily see how God created music to heal. I can also see how the connection is made with classes like ‘Anti-Semitism and the Holocaust.’ But with many of the classes, there isn’t a strong connection between the topic and the process of developing a Christian mind. The intentions are good, but in reality they fall a little flat.”