Picture this: a blubbering, acne-infested introvert. While biting his nails, he simultaneously half-pays attention to Seinfeld re-runs. As he sits in his chair, he is nervous and overwhelmed. He goes to the kitchen to feast on Funyuns, the lowest form of human sustenance. This heaping helping of onion-enhanced corn does nothing to calm his nerves. He sighs, unsure of the effect that the snack will have on his already-fragile gastroenterological system the next morning.
No, I’m not talking about an awkward middle schooler before his first date. Instead, my painting shows an entirely different first time. This is the reaction of the average (okay, maybe not-so-average) pre-frosh when being confronted with the College’s general education requirements. Your hand has barely healed from writing all those graduation-gift thank-you notes before the University hits you with this bulbous book of academic rules. I can’t speak for anyone else, but at that crucial point in my summer, I was too preoccupied with leaving home, saying goodbye to my friends and picking classes I actually found interesting (not to mention trying to hook up with that really hot girl from AP Bio) to be hit with this sector nonsense.
Many of the requirements seem strikingly similar to each other. Although there are differences between Formal Reasoning, Quantitative Data Analysis and Natural Sciences/Mathematics, at the end of the day, they’re all about math. Of course, those who aren’t math people should be exposed to numerical concepts, but why should we saturate them with these classes when they could have more productive experiences elsewhere?
Although annoying, these similarities aren’t even the biggest problems. Some of the requirements can’t even be filled easily. Why is it that barely any upper-level Economics classes count for the Society sector, whereas the introductory classes do? Such practices punish students for wanting to place out of introductory-level classes. It penalizes one’s desire to challenge himself intellectually. I’ve heard stories of History majors who still have not technically fulfilled the illusive History and Tradition sector. That’s like finding out Noam Chomsky doesn’t have his high-school diploma because he was sick once during gym class.
“The curriculum discourages students from taking more challenging courses because the higher-level ones don’t fulfill many requirements,” said College sophomore Zachary Charles. “I placed out of Math 114 and because of that I don’t have a Formal Reasoning credit, despite the fact that I took and got an A in Math 240.”
Kent Peterman, associate dean of the College and director of Academic Affairs, said the classes that fill the requirements are not supposed to be any upper-level class in that field, but that many times the departmental faculty tailors a specific class to satisfy the requirement.
But not only is it hard to find courses in your major that fill the requirement, it’s also hard to count a requirement toward your major. Though many majors have classes that also fill mulitple sectors, in almost every case only one sector requirement is allowed to double count.
Distribution requirements were meant to give students a thought-provoking and broad education, but most of the red tape surrounding them keeps students from researching things they actually enjoy. Before you pester me to transfer to Brown University, though, I’m not saying we should have an open curriculum. We should just stick to the five or six basic subjects. Besides, as students, isn’t our most important requirement to be passionate about what we learn?
Lance Wildorf is a College sophomore from Clark, N.J. His e-mail address is wildorf@theDP.com. Sir Lance-A-Lot appears on alternate Fridays.Comments powered by Disqus
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