Friday, June 18, 2021
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Liberal learning requirements limit students’ options

Since this is my eighth semester here at the College, I would be eligible to write a farewell column.

Of course, that would imply that I am graduating. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

I spent several semesters as a music education major before finally getting student teaching experience last fall. It was enough to convince me that I didn’t want to be a teacher and forced me to delay my graduation while I pick up a minor and consider another career path.

My dilemma represents a fatal flaw in the curricular transformation the College recently implemented this academic year. The prospect of an extra semester is nothing compared to the problems underclassmen will face.

The College conducts its student-related business with the belief that taking classes outside of our majors will make graduates well-rounded and open-minded.

However, it is a well-known fact among students that certain popular classes (Global Women Writers, anyone?) will knock off all but two or three humanities requirements.

Students will then fight over the seats in these classes to ensure that they can have more free time.

This has the effect of causing students to take classes to fulfill requirements instead of taking classes that interest them.

I would love to take extra history classes, or more statistics classes or maybe even a writing or journalism class.

However, because I already have to take nine classes for my major, whatever knocks off more than one requirement goes into my schedule, whether I care about the subject or not.

Transformation only exacerbates this problem.

Now, instead of being able to fit six three-credit classes into my schedule, I can only fit four four-credit classes.

If I want a fifth – which would have been no problem under the old system – I would need to be signed in by the department chairperson.

If I want to take a sixth class, which would have topped me off at the 18 credit limit a year-and-a-half ago, I need to pay extra tuition.

Because students can now take fewer classes, classes that fulfill multiple requirements will become virtually impossible to get into as students bank their credit hours to fulfill requirements within their majors.

On the other hand, classes that only remove one requirement will dwindle in size, leading to possible cancellations.

As far as I can tell, taking up a minor is a better way of becoming well-rounded than superficially skimming the surface of five different subjects.

Fears that students won’t broaden their horizons if left to their own devices are unfounded. For example, my major and newly declared minor have absolutely nothing to do with each other.

I’ve always had an interest in the workings of the justice system, and, with the knowledge gained from my first two criminology classes, I feel competent enough to do things like write an opinion column for The Signal.

With the current requirements, we will each be a “jack-of-all-trades” when we graduate, but, unfortunately, a master of none.

Instead of being required to take an unorganized list of classes (many of which will have nothing to do with the career we have decided to pursue), we should be given the opportunity to concentrate our “Liberal Learning” credits into the field of our choosing and pick up a minor.

Currently, this is possible, but only if we are willing to juggle our schedules, take summer classes and/or graduate late. As tuition-paying students, we have the right to demand an easier way.

Of course, a minor is not for everyone and the current Liberal Learning checklist may actually benefit students with broad interests and time to spare.

My proposal, however, would ensure a little more freedom for the rest of us while still allowing us to become diverse, well-rounded citizens.

After all, we gain more by exploring a subject deeply than we do by taking introductory courses in several different subject areas that may be of no use to us after we graduate.

Speaking of graduation, I would like to wish the senior class the best of luck in the future. I wish I could have been there with you on May 13. And, to my underclassman readers; don’t worry – this supersenior will see you next year.


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