So Here’s the Problem.

So now, for those whom I haven’t alienated by seeming exceedingly arrogant, I’ve got thoughts on education.

I’ve always been a good student, and I like learning. Yeah, I’m one of those. Now one of my part time jobs is being a classroom aide, and I get to see my own high school teachers’ perspectives on educating. The English teacher I work with says that it’s so much more fun and rewarding to teach students who may not get the best grades but who are engaged in the material, as opposed to kids who put forth effort only to get the grades, putting no heart into their work.

As an obvious college expert (having graduated two months ago), I’ve seen this same attitude in the typical undergraduate’s approach to college, especially general education classes.

I don’t mean at all to place myself outside of my scathing comments, having made many of these remarks myself, doubting the value of a class, bemoaning the ineptitude of a boring professor.

But what’s got me thinking recently is the common expression, “Why do I need to take [Class X]? It has nothing to do with [Profession/Major Y]!”

I can see two problems with this line of thinking. First, career paths change, and many graduates follow completely different paths than their majors would suggest. So it’s not too far to suggest the possibility that a class will have bearing on a future profession. Still, it is a stretch to imagine that Finite Mathematics will come into play much in the life of a studio artist, and that’s where my second point comes in.

It seems to me that we’ve lost the desire to become Renaissance men and women. We’ve gone so deep into our specialties that it’s no longer valuable to have a breadth of knowledge or skills. Our view focuses so much on what I want to do but forgets that that’s not the only element in who I want to be.

I often mention what I would have done in my “other lives,” interests I would have pursued if I weren’t going into counseling. These include photojournalism in dangerous/obscure locations, potter/hermit, teaching literature, and linguistics.

The difference between these pursuits and gen ed classes is the fact that I’m actually interested in these while the typical student wants nothing to do with “pointless” classes. But they’re similar in the fact that both are completely unrelated to my future profession.

Part of education’s purpose is to give us tools for our professions, but there is so much more to it than that. We are being equipped to be better, well-rounded people, members of community, citizens of the world. It saddens me to see that in so many ways we have lost the love of learning, only seeing it as a means to an end.

But without more than a basic understanding of science and math, I could not appreciate books like these as fully. Not that I’ve read that book specifically. That’s definitely beside the point.

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One thought on “So Here’s the Problem.

  1. Angie says:

    Also, if you’re an individual who enjoys cinema or television dramas, it is fascinating how often “useless knowledge” and understanding can really enhance the viewer’s esperience. This is also very true for relationships – as the wife of a self-proclaimed “geek,” I certainly appreciate my base knowledge in technical matters that are second nature to him. An example of an overlap of these two factors: we recently watched the second Star Trek movie from the 80’s, The Wrath of Khan. At the beginning of this movie, a copy of the Charles Dickens classic A Tale of Two Cities is given as a gift to the captain. At the close of the movie, a line from the book – one that is exceedingly applicable to a key, tragic scene – is quoted. As a fan of Dickens, I immediately recognized the phrase and its applied meaning – my husband hadn’t read the book or made this connection. This new knowledge made his favorite Star Trek movie more meaningful, I think. :) This may be a paltry example, but there are many times that a well-rounded education (and attitude about it) can come into play in post-collegiate life!

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