This post is in honor of my dear wife Kacee during her early-semester transfer student woes.
I haven’t had a good rant blog post in a while ever since we created this joint, stereotypical young married couple’s blog. Although I was planning on posting this on my personal blog since it doesn’t have really much to do with us Kacee requested I just write this on our blog, since she is dealing with people who whole-heartedly subscribe to the soon-to-be-described scholastic system.
Now, I don’t declare myself to be an authority on this subject (or any for that matter) and I am willing to change my opinion based on further information so please comment regardless if you agree or disagree. With that in mind, all people should also be willing to consider alternative ideas and reshape their mode of thinking if further information is presented as well.
Ok, so what’s the big deal? School. I, like Kacee, have gone through the motions and jumped through the hoops of the university system. I’ve been able to look back on my experiences – and those of my wife – to make some observations, critiques, and suggestions about the way I feel the “system” should be modified to better suit the needs of the student as well as those of society in general.
What am I talking about? “General education” requirements: A waste of money and time.
My disdain for GE requirements in college resurfaced this past few weeks as Kacee is being forced to take a transfer-student-specific orientation class here at Georgia State University even though it doesn’t fulfill any requirements needed for graduation. She was adamantly against this class. She argued with the academic advisors numerous times and all they would say was “well, it’s not technically required but you need to take it.” She finally went to class this week since her coach had to get involved and the teacher asked everybody what they didn’t like about the university in general and the class specifically. The majority of people mentioned that they didn’t like the fact that they were being treated like children, not having authority over their own academics. After gathering everybody’s opinions the teacher proceed to say that “you thought you were getting away from your parents but we (the university) are going to act like your parents until we get to know you.”
Using that as my preface, I hope it’s obvious that when an organization that you are paying to give you an education steps out and proclaims themselves as “your parents” that is when they are exhibiting a feeling of ultimate control over their students. College is not part of the K-12 public schools system and is an optional part of an individual’s education. Students don’t have to be in class if they don’t want to. They should be able to fail if they want to. If the university wants to provide academic advisors or other services to assist students in obtaining a degree that is fine but it should be up to the student (the customer, for all intents and purposes) to request this service. This brings me to my point about general education class requirements. College is a time for kids to grow up. Time for them to make a goal and focus their efforts in fulfilling it.
It is fairly common knowledge that the United States is falling behind other countries in educating upcoming generations. We can try and throw money at the problem (which will probably go to hiring more parental supervision for college transfer students) but why not just make better use of our time?
As a recent product of the public education system as well as a public university, I look back on my time in school and feel like I learned the exact same stuff year after year. 10th grade English = 11th grade English = 12th grade English. It’s possible that they’re supposed to teach different things but I didn’t learn anything new year to year. The problem gets worse once a student leaves high school. I went to SUU and was required to take 2 more English classes to fulfill my “general education requirements.” That’s just English, not to mention excessive math, history, and other meaningless courses.
In this era a person can’t be a “jack of all trades” type of guy, they must specialize. There is just too much information and knowledge out there for a person to acquire in such a limited amount of time. The world isn’t a place when the cutting edge of technology is putting a man with a glorified kite into flight, it’s putting civilian passengers into space and around the world on a regular basis. Back then, it was easier to learn a little extra English on the side but not anymore. We need to stop wasting time with the shotgun approach. If a kid wants to learn to do math well, stick him in math classes for 4 years instead of 2. If a kid wants to learn to be a good chemist, stick him in chemistry classes for 4 years instead of 2. If either of those kids wants to be really good at what they do, send ’em to graduate school since a Bachelors degree doesn’t mean all that much anymore.
Unfortunately, going to college is just part of the normal progression from elementary to jr. high to high school and to college. If what we want is a nation full of “well-rounded” (we have plenty of those thanks to McDonald’s and Burger King) adults, we’re on the right track. The track to mediocrity. If what we want is a nation full of people who are at the forefront of their respective fields, we need to stop wasting people’s time with history if their chosen career path is in cellular biology. One may argue “that’s what graduate school is for!” Not true. We can’t expect people to be going to school till they’re 35 yrs old, finally acquire the job-specific skills they need by the time they’re 40 and then try and retire when they’re 65.
Specific, targeted, education needs to start earlier. Generic general education needs to stop with graduation from high school. Unfortunately that’s not how they “system” is set up and we must resort to trying to answer the question of “when does high school really end?”