November 4, 2015

GOLDMAN | Education on Hold

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By JESSICA GOLDMAN

I overheard a friend who is pursuing a pre-med education talking about her schedule the other day. “I can tell you everything that’s going on inside this leaf,” she said to the young men sitting next to her, “but ask me anything about personal finances, and I’d blank completely.”

It’s unfortunate that college students today are forced to base their schedules on inflexible requirements that deem them worthy of the their prestigious diploma  only once completed. For some majors, requirements are so strict that students will never have an opportunity to take classes outside of their course of study. For others, there are only limited opportunities to take advantage of the breadth of courses that the university offers.

Of course the goal of choosing a major is to enjoy the field of study that we are focusing in; however, what if we are interested in more than one subject area? The rigidity of major requirements makes it difficult to dip into different classes that we find interesting. Then finally, after years of waiting, there is a gap in our schedule. We can finally take that class that we’ve wanted to take since freshman year… until we realize that class is for majors in that field only. It seems to me that “Any person, any study” should be rebranded as “Any person, but only one study.”  

It’s crucial for students to be provided a versatile education that prepares them for a diversity of life experiences. Blocking off classes to non-majors is counterproductive in molding children into well-rounded adults. Policy majors should be able to have an educated discussion about art, biology majors should have fluency in the skills taught in communications classes and engineers may want to try their hand at creative writing. And why shouldn’t they?

When we enter the workforce, we will no longer be categorized into the schools and majors that we chose in college. We will be individuals who need experience in a wide variety of areas to complete our daily tasks well. We need to graduate with a number of new experiences under our belts. We need to have knowledge of the subjects that we will use directly in our careers, but also knowledge that may contribute to a casual, educated conversation. Enough with classes on hold they are creating specialized robots.

Jessica is a senior Policy Analysis and Management major in the College of Human Ecology. She seeks inspiration from her four brothers, Dany Targaryen and the guy who hands out mixtapes outside CTB. Her posts appear on alternate Wednesdays this semester. She can be reached at jhg276@cornell.edu.

2 thoughts on “GOLDMAN | Education on Hold

  1. Yes, so many courses, so little time, a challenging dilemma. I think the colleges that use an academic year based on quarters, rather than semesters, have an advantage in terms of opportunity for academic exploration. That said, doesn’t Cornell offer a flexible “Independent Major” program that may suit some broad-minded students?

    At $65,000 per year and rising, the cost of academic exploration at Cornell is prohibitive, especially when it leads to extra semester(s) to graduate. One solution is to permit students a choice to enter Cornell as true freshmen after attending community college, vs sophomore or junior transfers based on transferable credit, at the student’s discretion. That allows for cost-effective academic and career exploration prior to deciding a career path, and the student would benefit from valuable depth, possibly with a more forgiving course load, in their selected major at Cornell.

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