My Name is Christine (Newhard) Bartkowski

My Name is Christine (Newhard) Bartkowski

I graduated from Cedarville in 2004 with a Bachelor of Music Education degree and minors in Bible, Church Music, Philosophy and Honors. After graduation I attended graduate school at Wright State University in Dayton, OH with a concentration in Humanities, particularly Political Science and Religion. From there I moved to Pennsylvania to attend Penn State University Dickinson School of Law, where I graduated in May 2011. During law school, I interned for MidPenn Legal Services for two years, where I worked with attorneys to provide free legal counseling and representation to low income clients. I passed the Pennsylvania Bar Examination on my first attempt and became an attorney in March 2012. I currently stay at home to raise my 9-month-old daughter.

The freshman honors course, Making of the Modern Mind (MOMM), was foundational to my Cedarville education. Not only did the course introduce me to a close circle of friends, it provided the framework for the rest of my education. Dr. Mills’ philosophy lessons were a particular challenge, as I had to learn to address ideas that were not my own, and put words to the reasons I held to my worldview and faith. These skills were crucial for my post-Cedarville education. At Wright State my professors often chose to challenge my views in front of the class, knowing that as a Cedarville graduate I would not only have opposing views to what they taught, but I had proven my ability to explain my views and the reasons behind them, which was a skill those professors hoped to teach the rest of my classmates. In law school it was required that I be able to reason my way through a set of facts and legal principles, as well as break down logical reasoning of written court opinions. While many of my classmates struggled through their first year to learn these critical thinking skills, I sailed through readily, having gained such skills in MoMM and my philosophy minor under the tutelage of Dr. David Mills and other philosophy professors. My success in law school and the legal profession as a whole can be directly traced to my philosophy classes at Cedarville.

Cedarville’s philosophy department provided a solid groundwork for my future vocation as an attorney. Law school admission departments preferred students with a background in either philosophy or the hard sciences, rather than the “pre-law” major so many students took in undergrad. Their rationale was that students who could succeed in philosophy and hard science majors were those students to knew how to think and reason, and those were the same skills that would make successful law students, and eventually successful attorneys.

Even today I still remember certain lessons and key phrases taught by Dr. Mills in MoMM, and those ideas inform my political and social opinions. One such phrase that is never far from my mind is “We should work to make abortion unthinkable, not illegal.” While many in Christian circles prefer the latter option as the easier route to protect unborn children, it doesn’t work. Not only is it an uphill battle legally, based on Supreme Court jurisprudence, making something illegal does not stop others from engaging in the activity – it just drives it underground. But making the idea unthinkable, taking it out of people’s minds as a rational option, would achieve the end of abortion, without needing to worry about a court’s interpretation of individual civil liberties. As a lawyer, I am limited by how the courts rule on social issues, but as a thinking Christian, I can work to reach out to individuals and help them understand the ramifications of their choices, thereby making some choices on social issues unthinkable. Only when society sees abortion as an “unthinkable” option will it truly end.

Ultimately, I would not be the person I am today were it not for Cedarville’s philosophy program. It taught me how to critically address positions, evaluate ideas, and “test everything,” as admonished by Paul in 1 Thessalonians. Such skills are priceless in a profession that not only deals with hot-topic political and social issues, but also advises people when they are at their most vulnerable. These abilities are also prized as a Christian figuring out how to live and move in a highly secularized profession and society. Without critical thinking skills, I would not easily be able to determine how to respond to others who are looking for answers in everyday life, especially when tragedy is so often in the headlines, and contrary opinions are rampant in the news. Without the foundation laid by Dr. Mills in teaching me how to challenge the ideas expressed by society in daily life, I have no idea how I would teach my daughter to also challenge the ideas she will be faced with all too soon once she starts school. In a post-modern culture, where truth is seen as relative and most do not understand what they believe, let alone why, Cedarville’s philosophy program equipped me to raise my family to be different, to take a stand for Christ with full understanding and vetting of our faith, and to rationally answer those who challenge such beliefs. I am thankful to have had the opportunity to attend Cedarville, and to study under Dr. Mills and so many other knowledgeable and compassionate professors. It is my hope that future generations of Cedarville students will have the same opportunity.

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