The biggest obstacle for me in my hopefully-soon-to-be-finished BA trajectory has been the course “Wetenschapsfilosofie”. Twice. After having done two of its exams in the first exam week, I am once again feeling the anticipating fear and despair in my gut of having to wait for the results and getting to know whether or not I will have to delay graduation for another year. Now I’m not exactly a straight-A-student to begin with, but this is just one of those courses that is aimed at making you fail.
There are several reasons why I feel that the course is set-up in an illogical manner, and is meant to give you a hard time, rather than actually allowing you to learn what it teaches. I would firstly like to explain the structure of the course for those who have not yet had the pleasure of taking it: Philosophy of Science is divided into two parts: a general part and a part that is specific to your actual course, like English in my case. The general part is taught in Dutch (more on this will follow) and the English part is sub-divided into two modules: Linguistics and Literature. The general part lasts 16 weeks and the Linguistics and Literature modules each last 8 weeks and they follow each other up respectively. Like so:
It seems to be constructed in a fair way, but in practice this structure simply does not work very well. Both the general part and the English part (in specific the Linguistics module for me) require a great deal of hard work, attention and effort in order to keep up with the material and getting good grades. If you’re someone like me, who has to also take an elective, work at a part-time job, have personal projects and a half-assed social life as a result, you will find that Wetenschapsfilosofie is too much in too little time. For the general part, you’re force-fed an average of 30 pages per week on complex topics in an academic language that you’re not used to (Dutch), while simultaneously having to put at least as much effort in the English part, for which you must have a 5,5 for each module – no compensation allowed. Luckily, the general Dutch part can be compensated by the English one, but for a non-straight-A-student, this is Mission: Impossible, meaning that it all works out in the end, but you have to work your butt off astronomically.
As I mentioned before, I take issue with the general part of this course being taught in Dutch. It does not make sense in any way to have a course that is taught to all studies in the Humanities department in a non-international language. Yes, part of my reasoning is because I want to be taught in English, a language I’m used to, but I have heard from more than one international student that it is very difficult to follow this course in a language that they don’t know very well (gee whiz, why would that be?). I find it odd that such an essential part of a course, content-wise and audience-wise, is not taught in a language that is understandable for everyone. Because not only does this affect the grades of international students badly, but those of others as well – there are more studies that are predominantly taught in academic English and not in academic Dutch. I just hope for future Wetenschapsfilosofie students that someone somewhere who is in charge of changing this course will make some effort into improving this issue. Mostly because it is so easy to improve: change the Dutch material into an English equivalent. I’m sure there are plenty of study books that are just as good, if not better than the Leezenberg & de Vries book.
I would only like to conclude that I genuinely enjoy the material taught in Wetenschapsfilosofie – yes, even the linguistics module, terrible though I am at it -, but the course is made in such a way that unfortunately I’m not really allowed to savor the knowledge I’m ramming down my brainpan at lightning speed with the delicacy of a raging rhinoceros.