An Engaging PACE

Last week, The Phillipian ran an editorial, “Pick Up the PACE,” addressing some of the issues commonly associated with the PACE program. As a Lower currently participating in PACE, I entered the program with high expectations, extremely excited at the prospect of discussing social issues in a relaxed, yet academic setting. What I have witnessed, however, is that PACE’s problems are inherent in the class itself and occur in spite of measures taken to provide a well-rounded and informative course. The greatest issue with PACE is something that I am not sure can be resolved: the fact of the matter is that those who actively participate in discussion are the students who have already expressed an interest in, and often have extensive knowledge of, the topics of social issues and identity covered in PACE. At the same time, those who pay no mind and who likely come away from PACE unaffected are those who most desperately need “Personal and Community Education,” in other words, to be made aware of the values of this institution and to become more open-minded. Ironically, these are the individuals for whom PACE could have the most significant benefits. Assuming that PACE class conversations promote open-mindedness and progressive change is simply naïve. If we ignore this fact, however, and do not change the PACE curriculum in some substantial way, then we are only continuing to execute what we realize is a failing program. My PACE experience may not be exactly the same as that of most Lowers: my group has two faculty supervisors and no PACE Senior. From what I understand, however, many students have had the same experiences as myself. The best way to engage students is one that improves PACE without affecting the integrity or structure of the course, supplementing the program where it is lacking. Accepting that the largest issue with PACE is its inability to engage many students, PACE discussions should begin by addressing preconceived opinions, stereotypes and misconceptions. This would particularly benefit students who lack background issues on the subjects discussed in PACE. For many Lowers, PACE is the first time they are formally exposed to such controversial topics of identity relating to class, sexuality, race, gender and religion, among others. More importantly, it is often the first time they are forced to consider these issues from a perspective other than their own, a process that is most uncomfortable and least interesting to students already not invested in the course. Such an introduction, however, would make the class more accessible to students who have not yet had experience with topics discussed in PACE without alienating them. Students already versed in topics covered in PACE could also probably benefit from the short introductions themselves. Thus, when discussion begins, all students would presumably working from the same basic facts. There is no guarantee that this method will work, but what is clear is that PACE class cannot continue to function as it has: it simply does not work.