The Evolution of CTS-110

A Class of Clashing Reviews

For every Redeemer student, the CTS-110 course known as “Introduction to Reformed Worldview” is an essential foundation to each student’s Redeemer education. The course was designed to allow students a better understanding of the school’s traditions while also discussing important cultural and social issues. CTS-110 is a relatively new addition to Redeemer’s curriculum, having only been taught by the school for the past few years. 

CTS-110 is a very important course, designed to fill the gap between student’s shared, broad Christian faith, while also addressing Redeemer’s reformed tradition specifically. Throughout the course, students are given the opportunity to tackle many important issues ranging from Christian history, politics, the economy, and more. However, because of its placement in the core, making it a mandatory course for all students, CTS-110 has been subject to a lot of criticism from students and faculty and subsequently has undergone many changes over the years. This article will give students a chance to look at the changes CTS-110 has gone through, as well as hearing student’s opinions of the course and how Redeemer has shaped it over the years.

The History of CTS-110

Regarding CTS-110’s history, the current iteration of the course has a very different focus than previous versions. When the course began, it was focused on looking at voices from the Neo-Calvinist tradition, discussing the Fall, common grace, Genesis, and the coming of God’s kingdom. The course also used to have a number of books on economics which students would read and give a presentation on in groups. However, even in its beginning, CTS-110 had many varying opinions from students. 

Joseph Nanda, a fifth-year education student, experienced an earlier version of CTS-110 and had mixed feelings about it. One criticism he had of the course was that its content was very Reformed, but the course was not marketed this way, making it hard for students who did not have a Reformed framework. Nanda also mentioned that he thought the school should “combine REL-110 and CTS-110 into one course” because he did not feel like there was enough content to justify two courses. Still, Nanda did say he believed the course helped him grow in his faith by granting him a better understanding of the Reformed worldview which gave him a valuable lens to view the world. 

Another education student, Calvin Wiarda, had a very positive experience with CTS-110.  Wiarda mentioned how he appreciated that the “course created a narrative and discussion about the world. I found it to be great for meeting new people and establishing my beliefs and thoughts about content I hadn’t engaged in academically before.” Wiarda also mentioned how he believed that the class should be mandatory for students, as it helped form a shared foundation which he believed helped with community growth. 

Still, the course more recently had problems that students and staff alike were noticing. Dr. Doug Sikkema, a professor of core curriculum studies at Redeemer, said that last year while he “taught the course, it felt like some of it was a little too pre-theology.”This heavy scriptural focus was noticed by Sarah Olivo, a third-year student who experienced CTS-110 during lockdown. Olivo noted that when she took CTS-110, it was essentially a theology class, which it was not supposed to be, and although she appreciated better understanding Redeemer’s background, it was not what she thought students were supposed to be learning. Sarah also said that the course was overwhelming, very content heavy, and had a lot of students failing tests. 

Changes to the Course

            This new variation of the course, designed primarily by Dr. Amber Bowen has been created to try and address some of the previous problems and improve for new students. Specifically, Bowen designed a course that was more involved with the digital age since that is what students are living. Sikkema and Bowen proposed reshaping the course this past summer, giving CTS-110 a complete overhaul. 

            The course’s new focus is composed of three threads: Reformed issues, contemporary social issues, and a significant concentration on the digital age. Keeping the course up to date is important, since students frame of reference is only about 5 years, and has always contained a technological presence. Now, while technology is not inherently evil, the CTS-110 course is directed to helping students explore some of the problems with a technology-dominated lifestyle and how mankind was not necessarily created to live this way. The irony of the situation is that in 2023 we are constantly utilizing technology, even using it to teach CTS-110 with computers, projectors, and videos. And while some technologies are beneficial, the course all discusses the dangers of technology, especially the addiction caused by social media. 

            Another key element of the new CTS-110 that Sikkema shared is that the course is “designed to help students think more deeply about their faith.” Sikkema described how the course seeks to help students apply their faith today, referencing the Biblical call for believers to be workers and worshippers in this world. The hope of CTS-110 is that “for students beginning academically they will have a framework for who God is calling them to be.” 

           One tool the course utilizes to help students better understand how to live in God’s kingdom is the concept of Structure and Direction. Structure and Direction is a concept that calls Christians to not naïvely assume that everything in this world is all good or all evil. Sikkema explained it like this: “There is an underlying goodness in this world, but there is also an uneasiness I get from the world.” This uneasiness comes from man’s fears: fear of death, sickness, brokenness, and falling apart. As Christians, we should be trying to recover and direct this earth back to its original goodness, while recognizing that this Earth is not as God intended.. This is the point that CTS-110 really strives to drive into students, that our purpose in this earth is to try and emphasize the good in this world while also living with the reality that we are a sinful people living in a broken world.

First-Year Review

            Still, the CTS-110 course is experiencing very conflicting views from first-year students. In a poll of 35 first years asking how they felt =about the course, only 11% said they loved the class, while 20% said it was the worst class they were taking this semester. However, nearly 46% of respondents said they thought CTS-110 was a good course, with only 23% saying they disliked the course and thought it needed improvements. This diversity in views was also reflected in interviews conducted with first years. 

Mahalah Wantang, a first-year student, had very positive views of CTS-110, saying she “liked how we are getting into the digital age and seeing it from a more academic perspective.” She also noted that the class was helpful to her faith in that she felt more accountable against allowing technology to interfere with her faith. However, she did feel like the course should not necessarily be mandatory because the class simply will not be effective for people who do not want to be there. 

Another first-year student, Annelise Helmond, had a far more negative view of the class. Annelise mentioned how the course marketed itself as a course on the Reformed worldview, something she was interested in learning more about, but that CTS-110 was not very specific to the Reformed worldview. She also disliked how the course had no apparent direction and thought it would be best for CTS-110 to pick one direction and stick with it. For her learning, she said she found the class very difficult to learn from, and from her experience, the percentage of people who enjoyed the class were in the minority. 

It’s clear that the views on the new CTS-110 are still very mixed and that the course will likely have to go through some changes in the future. Sikkema noted how the course will be going through a complete review this spring and that the school will be looking at changing the way it offers the course. For any students who have passionate views on the course, make sure to talk to your professor about what you either loved or hated about the course, so the school can work towards making an even better course for future students.