Colleges should focus more on liberal arts

Discussion in 'Education and Academia' started by quentinc, Jan 15, 2007.

  1. nicephoras

    nicephoras A very stable genius

    Jul 22, 2001
    Eastern Seaboard
    18 year olds who have no one to read their work can't get better. You can write all you want, but unless you get it critiqued by a better writer, what's the point?
    Not to mention that 18 year olds don't develop motivation to write 3-5 pages every week. Its not in them. You would never have done it if you weren't attending that school.
     
  2. NaMusa75

    NaMusa75 New Member

    Nov 2, 2005
    Unfortunately, SoCal
    Does the 18 year old have no one to read their work live in isolation from the outside world or does the 18 year old not know how to find somebody to read their work? You also can't force it on an 18 year old. If he/she doesn't want to become a better writer chances are he will never be a better writer (regardless of how much practice he gets).

    If I hadn't gone to that school I wouldn't have written so many papers, but I would still would have found a way to get my stuff read through peer evaluation, workshops at the library or community college, tutoring at the learning center, etc, etc. I had my eyes on the prize at an early age (academic success --> financial reward) and perhaps that counts for a lot.
     
  3. nicephoras

    nicephoras A very stable genius

    Jul 22, 2001
    Eastern Seaboard
    OK, I think I can see where you're coming from now. I think its a question of the perspective from which you approach the issue - to me that's more of an issue of research and analysis than writing itself, but I can see how you could approach this from the writing end of it as well. For me, the actual "writing" part boils down to style rather than substance. You improve in style as you keep writing, so the trick is to keep doing it and to have it critiqued (although I'd never be so blase as to suggest its "entirely up to you"). I've also seen problems with both style and research, so I guess I differentiate those two ideas. The way I look at it, you can just be a flat out bad writer or you can be a decent writer with bad research. I can see how the two could be put together into a single view, however.

    There's a limit to this, obviously - my undergraduate thesis changed radically from what it was initially, although once I actually got to writing the beast, my three page outline served me quite well. Of course, given that I draft note purchase agreements and the like for a living, its not terribly surprising I can create decent outlines. :p
    Still, though, I can usually craft papers for my sister after getting a 10 minute synopsis of a book she's had to read/class she's had to take and develop a rough outline without knowing any of the in depth subject matter. Never underestimate the art of bullshitting. :)
    On the other hand, having recently discovered some poetry I wrote at the age of 18, I guarantee you there are writing advantages you have over me!

    I guess I'm somewhat lucky in that regard - none of our teachers taught to AP tests (although that's partially because my AP US History and AP English teachers were less than great). I didn't even get a 4 on the AP US History exam, which baffles me to this day. But we didn't focus on the test, even though we all took it, so I've never seen that problem first hand.

    That's why I think they're a good idea. So long as you have an interesting idea and work at it, you can put together a decent paper in a seminar. It may have more research holes than Swiss cheese, but as an undergard, you're not supposed to understand that, really. How much is a 20 year old history student supposed to know about the prosopographic movement of the early/mid 20th century and the reaction against it by more modern scholars? Not that much, to be honest. I was certainly blindsided by a comment during my thesis defense, although it was meant kindly - I had inadvertantly moved to an area of history (early 20th century Russian intellectual history) I wasn't familiar with. But its the effort and the clarity that are appreciated and the attempt to at least make a go of the research project. I know I've read some....um.......less than great seminar papers!

    I don't think you need writing classes per se - I think you need a class that forces you to do a seminar type paper with sufficient professor input. Almost any professor at a decent college will be a decent writer at worst, meaning that you will have the critique of a better writer as well as the experience of writing the paper.
    While I hated taking some of my science classes, I appreciate the need for them. Just like I think that anyone who graduates from university needs to have written a long research paper. Its nice to imagine that the real world will treat us strictly on the merits of how well we do our work, but very often that will involve presentations, requests for grants, proposition papers, etc. Being able to write well is a skill that's almost never going to remain unutilized.
     
  4. nicephoras

    nicephoras A very stable genius

    Jul 22, 2001
    Eastern Seaboard
    Its one thing to go look for a community workshop. Its another to have a teacher demand papers once every two weeks. You're prevaricating.

    Unless your school demanded you to write as much as you did you never would have. To suggest otherwise at the age of 18 is a farce. You're hardly the only overachiever here, you know. Nor the only one to have gone to an excellent high school. Furthermore, had you not gone to this school, it is unlikely you would have developed the "eyes on the prize" mentality to the same extent and even more unlikely you'd have spent as much time following through on it.
    Nor is fabulous writing remotely a prerequisite for academic or financial success.
     
  5. NaMusa75

    NaMusa75 New Member

    Nov 2, 2005
    Unfortunately, SoCal
    How am I prevaricating?

    I actually stated that I wouldn't have written so much.
    Unlikely, sure, but not the case with me. I actually chose to change schools after the 6th grade with the intent on getting a better education and greater financial reward.
    I never said that. If anything, I'm implying that good writing leads to academic success which then leads to financial success. I've never implied it is the ONLY means . . .
     
  6. Chicago1871

    Chicago1871 Member

    Apr 21, 2001
    Chicago
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    You might very well be an exception in this case, but I'd be willing to bet that only the tiniest percentage of students understand and make such a decision on their own at that age.
     
  7. NaMusa75

    NaMusa75 New Member

    Nov 2, 2005
    Unfortunately, SoCal
    Yep, you're probably right on that.
     
  8. Wingtips1

    Wingtips1 Member+

    May 3, 2004
    02116
    Club:
    Liverpool FC
    nice said it well. high schools need to make sure that students have the basic skills necessary to succeed during collegiate years.
    if you're a business student, knowing something about chemistry or biology may be of use to you. if you're an engineering student, having a finance class may be of use when you make manager and have to handle a departmental budget. there is a need for focused courses of study (public accounts, pharmaceutical researchers), there is a great need for people who are able to adapt to many situations. and those are the people that will become great leaders, instead of simply managers.

    as a liberal arts graduate (who had a major and four minors), I will preach the virtues of a well-rounded education!!
     
  9. ForeverRed

    ForeverRed Member+

    Aug 18, 2005
    NYC
    Club:
    FC Bayern München
    Nat'l Team:
    Germany
    Oh its not true? You seem to know my situation better than I do. While not everyone holds that opinion almost everyone I know or talked to about this in school believes that.
     
  10. needs

    needs Member

    Jan 16, 2003
    Brooklyn
    What school? What are the distribution requirements? When was the last time the curriculum was redone?

    Believe it or not, undergrad curriculums, both at the university and the department level usually have been thought out for rather particular reasons (in meetings that seem like they will never end). It would be helpful to know what the particular distros and prereqs are in order to evaluate them.
     
  11. nicephoras

    nicephoras A very stable genius

    Jul 22, 2001
    Eastern Seaboard
    What you're saying is that "all the kids I go to school with think that all these prerequisites we have to take are lame, man". Which is equivalent to a 5 year old complaining to his friends that his parents forcing him to eat vegetables is lame. Yeah, you would think so. Forest, trees, etc.

    You are going to college to get a degree, which implies to people who may employ you that you got a well rounded education. If you only took classes for your major you'd be in a technical school, not a college. That's how it works. There's a reason your college has cirriculum requirements.
     
  12. nicephoras

    nicephoras A very stable genius

    Jul 22, 2001
    Eastern Seaboard
    So its largely not your own choice.

    Not an option available to all.
     
  13. ForeverRed

    ForeverRed Member+

    Aug 18, 2005
    NYC
    Club:
    FC Bayern München
    Nat'l Team:
    Germany
    Well, the general requirements are the same for all undergraduates, no matter what their major/minors are. I'm not sure when they last changed the curriculum but the scope of the requirements weren't around forever.

    Basic requirements are english, math, history, science and foreign language, all taught at a HS level. Most upper level courses can't be taken without these "prerequisites" even if done in HS. Therefore unneccessary time and money has to spent on these courses. Then you have diversity requirements such as african american/carribean studies, womens studies, asian studies etc. These don't neccessarily act as prerequisites but have to be taken regardless and for what?

    Time would be spent much better doubling up on major courses, especially since classes overlap and there are scheduling conflicts. Plus, most students at my college work and commute, having even less time to study. Yet they have to waste time on these stupid requirements, most of which don't even apply to their respective major programs.
     
  14. ForeverRed

    ForeverRed Member+

    Aug 18, 2005
    NYC
    Club:
    FC Bayern München
    Nat'l Team:
    Germany
    Pfft...nice try. Nowhere did I say that is how EVERYONE at my school feels so just stop it.

    And just how well rounded is that education when these basic requirements are taught at a HS level? Whats the point? Where should the line be drawn? Why take the same course twice? I'm getting my undergraduate degree so I can go to graduate school eventually, I can't skip steps or do have you found a loophole?
     
  15. quentinc

    quentinc New Member

    Jan 3, 2005
    Annapolis, MD
    :rolleyes:

    I'm not in anyway blaming the system. My senior class has roughly 700 students, and there are, at best, 90 people currently taking senior AP English (intended to prepare us for the AP Lang & Lit exam). I'm probably well-acquainted with nearly all 90 of these people, since we generally take the same classes together, and I would say, at the very most, 30 of these people have the interest, desire, and maturity to legitimately improve their writing. It's no stretch to say that the other 60 rarely read the books and bs their way through all writing assignment (and bitch about any and every assignment brought their way). The sole reason they take the class is for the 8 points on their GPA and the way it looks to colleges. This is also one of the better public schools in the area.

    And we undergo a workload that is far less strenous than the one you detail, so I'm simply making an observation, based on my experience, that were a similar routine imposed on public school students, it would be nowhere near as effective.
     
  16. needs

    needs Member

    Jan 16, 2003
    Brooklyn

    The curricular reasons those are required are pretty much what nice says, that the university sees part of its mission as producing well rounded students who are able to be responsible citizens. That mission's long been part of almost every serious university's conception of its role in society.

    You're voicing a fairly common complaint that's based on the increasing sense among students that they are consumers, who should have freedom of choice over their own curriculum, and don't want to subordate themselves to the above mission. That college, and education itself, is a means to an end, and not an end in itself.

    I should say, it's no accident that students feel this way, when universities make every effort to appeal to students as consumers, marketing their new athletic facilities, producing glossy brochures, etc.

    The point about the relative quality of the courses likely reflect that they're what faculty call "service" classes, which mean that many faculty members don't want to teach them, as they draw large number of students disinterested in the subject matter, who regard them as burdens rather than opportunities. But I guarantee not all are like that, and that most professors will give you more back if you show interest. My advice would be to research and figure out what courses you think you will get the most out of (and I know I'm appealing to the consumer mentality that I decried above, but it's not totally harmful).

    Here's an interesting essay about the whole consumer mentality thing...
    http://www.student.virginia.edu/~decweb/lite/
     
  17. nicephoras

    nicephoras A very stable genius

    Jul 22, 2001
    Eastern Seaboard
    Stop what? Making sense? When you get a college degree, employers take it to mean that you have graduated from a college, not from a place that taught you a TRADE. There's a difference. You want to turn college into DeVry - just teach me what I want and leave me alone. That's not what college is. Columbia, for instance, requires a whole slew of intro classes. And yes, some of them are repeated from high school. Doesn't stop people from going to Columbia or employers valuing Columbia grads.
    As someone who's still in college, why am I not surprised you can't see the forest for the trees? Or even understand my point.

    Some are, some are not. Not to mention that your understanding of US history at a college level should go FAR beyond what you managed in 10th grade. High school is supposed to provide the bare minimum for you to be an educated citizen. College allows you to call yourself an educated person. There's a difference. If you only took major classes you'd effectively be a mechanic with a GED.

    That's up to the university you attend. Although, in truth, most universities set their main course requirements at about the same level. Most will require you to take 12 classes or so to fulfill your major. That's a pretty decent amount.

    You "can't skip steps"? Hah. Where there's a will, there's a way. Not to mention that most classes people take for their electives are not upper level - they're intro classes. You'd have to be batshit insane (or stupid) to do as much work for intro to Geology (rocks for jocks) as you would for the honors seminar in your major. Here's a shocking discovery - grad schools don't really care as much about your grades in the electives - getting a couple of Bs won't matter. No place I applied to after my undergard cared that my science GPA was at a 3.0.

    I'm sorry you find it so objectionable that your college is trying to turn you into a well rounded educated person with the breadth of vision to avoid making the arguments like you are now. Even more interesting is that wingtips and I agree on this - and I'm usually considerably more to the left of him. Even heartless accountants agree with the need for the humanities sometimes.

    As for the horror of having to take Asian/African American studies, I never said I agree with every single elective requirement, but its truly rare you can't find some class that works for your major which fulfills this requirement or one that's on an interesting topic with a slant. Unless your major is hard science/engineering, there are few elective requirements that can't be worked into what you are interested in. Hell, I managed to find an upper level geology and the law class (in which I got the worst grade I've ever received, but it was fun and I'd definitely do it again).
     
  18. ForeverRed

    ForeverRed Member+

    Aug 18, 2005
    NYC
    Club:
    FC Bayern München
    Nat'l Team:
    Germany
    You're absolutley right in what you're saying. Its not everyone, I know plenty of people who are just fine with it. And despite what nicephoras might think, I do understand the point of a well rounded education, which is meant with its best intentions.

    Some people enterting college need those basic requirement courses because their HS education wasn't adequate enough. Then again, some don't. My main problem lies with the money I have to spend on these unneccessary classes. It's not so much a matter of not being interested because there is something fascinating behind every science and other generic requirements.

    I don't know how it was here in the past, I'm only speaking from my experiences, but tuition costs have risen in the last couple of years. On top of that students have to buy expensive books, most of which are being ordered through private bookstores, not allowing students to use their book vouchers from any financial aid they are receiving. Transporation costs are also a big concern for students at my school and other NYC colleges, not only public transportation but campus shuttles which seem to be raising fares every semester.

    All that considered, college education seems more like a financial burden that ends up in long years of repaying loans than a smart investment for your career.
     
  19. nicephoras

    nicephoras A very stable genius

    Jul 22, 2001
    Eastern Seaboard
    Translation: I already know enough and don't want to pay for it.
    Right. :rolleyes:
     
  20. ForeverRed

    ForeverRed Member+

    Aug 18, 2005
    NYC
    Club:
    FC Bayern München
    Nat'l Team:
    Germany
    Again, I get your point. Who can argue against a well rounded education? Thats not my point.

    And sure, there are dozens of classes within the required departments that are applicable to my major or anyones for that matter. If there is one available that semester, I would take it but its very rare that all the courses listed in the school catalogue are actually available or taught at a favorable time. Like I said, there are tons of scheduling conflicts.

    I've got 90% of my requirements fullfilled already so the worst part is over in that department but its time I could have spent preparing myself better for graduate school, which will be much more demanding and requires a lot of knowledge for those applying.
     
  21. ForeverRed

    ForeverRed Member+

    Aug 18, 2005
    NYC
    Club:
    FC Bayern München
    Nat'l Team:
    Germany
    I'm not going to make such an arrogant statement but thats the gist of it. I've taken most of my requirements already because I had no choice and I can't say that I learned something new or didn't already go through in HS.

    But whatever, as long as the application center at graduate schools see that I'm "well rounded"...
     
  22. nicephoras

    nicephoras A very stable genius

    Jul 22, 2001
    Eastern Seaboard
    Yes, it actually is.

    Boo hoo. Really, you're the first person to be faced with this problem EVER. Suck it up and take something. You might learn a bit.

    NO! That's the bloody point! No one goes to graduate school having taken only major classes, so everyone is in the same boat.
    By the way, what exactly do you plan on studying in graduate school? Aren't you an international relations major??? :confused:
     
  23. nicephoras

    nicephoras A very stable genius

    Jul 22, 2001
    Eastern Seaboard
    If you learned nothing knew from your college classes you must go to a crap college.

    Uh, better than them thinking you went to DeVry.
     
  24. ForeverRed

    ForeverRed Member+

    Aug 18, 2005
    NYC
    Club:
    FC Bayern München
    Nat'l Team:
    Germany
    Like I said, I had no choice but to take classes that weren't directly applicable to my major. It's done already but thanks for your suggestion.

    And there would be no point to graduate school if everything could be learned at this stage. The masters program I want to get into isn't exactly the same as the one I'm going through at the moment, nor does it offer the same courses. It's a very broad field and the graduate program is a lot more detailed whereas a real expertise in the subject can be developed.
     
  25. ForeverRed

    ForeverRed Member+

    Aug 18, 2005
    NYC
    Club:
    FC Bayern München
    Nat'l Team:
    Germany

    I learned nothing new in the generic requirements classes. Thats not to say I didn't learn anything from my core/major classes. There is a difference.
     

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