A Message on Educational Structure

In our last class of the semester, we discussed flaws within the education system. This is something that college students feel more passionate about than anyone, because they deal with those flaws every day.

When I was originally looking for colleges, unlike most people I was confident I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to combine my love for horses with my love for writing and eventually work for a horse-related magazine, like Horse Illustrated, Young Rider, Equus, etc. Most of you probably have no idea what I’m talking about but there is a market for journalism about any subject whether it be science, technology, animals or fashion, because there are people out there who take great interest in these things. Thus, when I was picking colleges, UMass seemed like the perfect fit; it offers both journalism and equine management, whereas any other school I looked at had only one or the other.

It was my grand plan to come here and double major or take equine management as a minor. Only after I had started school here did I find out that you can’t do that because one offers an associate’s degree, the other offers a bachelor’s, and there is no minor in equine management. There is no minor in Animal Science either. BDIC proved impossible as well because you have to pick at least three majors to combine and you cannot participate in classes that are 200-level or below – which, being an associate’s degree, equine management practically only offers classes that are 200-level or below.

Long story short, because of the institution’s rules, I am a journalism major with a French minor. This is the closest I can get to my field of interest due to the educational structure that doesn’t see me as an individual.

According to the UMass website, there are 95 undergraduate majors that offer either bachelor’s or associate’s degrees. This sounds pretty impressive until you consider that there are far more than 95 jobs a person can have, probably thousands. I understand entirely that it would be unethical to offer a major catering to each specific career path – there are not enough teachers, overspecialized classes produce a small student count and the school wouldn’t be making much money from it. But when even BDIC – the system designed to incorporate multiple majors – fails, it teaches students to think less creatively. Modern education teaches students to fit into boxes that they have no control in designing. It’s almost like getting hand-me-down clothes from an older brother or sister. Sure, those clothes fit your sibling, but they might not fit you. “You’ll grow into them,” your parent says. When picking a major, you learn to adapt to the circumstances that someone else has already determined for you.

To use another analogy, a fish grows to fit the body of water that contains it. Having such clearly defined, pre-determined majors is like confining the fish to a small bowl. The student – in the analogy, the fish – can only grow so much intellectually as his or her opportunities allow. By allowing students to take classes that only partially fit their interests, administrators put a cap on students’ intellectual growth. This is because when students study subjects that they are truly interested in and passionate about, they learn more from their work. They CARE to learn more. A more open educational system that caters to students’ individuality would produce students that can say their diplomas are more than just $80,000 pieces of paper.

We are constantly learning, often through our work as journalists, that the world can’t be seen in black and white. When will the education system catch up?

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2 Responses to A Message on Educational Structure

  1. These are all really good points of the US education system, and of UMass’, that are never properly addressed. The first thing we as students are asked is, “what’s your major?” – a label that identifies us and which we must conform to. Even if we are studying subjects we love, there are requirements we must meet or restrictions that inhibit us from taking what truly interests us. The BDIC sounds like a great option for a student to personalize his/her education, but doing so has its own set of hoops the student must jump through.
    As a double major, I find myself taking the bare minimum of requirements needed so I can graduate on time, sacrificing classes I’d rather take for ones that will check off on SPIRE. If funds were endless, I would happily stay an extra year to take extra classes that suit me, and I’m sure many other students feel the same, but unfortunately that’s not the case. The price of education is yet another setback that impedes student’s learning and needs resolving, which I’m afraid may not be solved until it’s too late.

  2. bbowker2014 says:

    It’s so hard to pick a major as an 18 year old right out of high school and I think this has a lot to do with the problem. High school is essentially a four year long compilation of general education courses. Which is obviously good for some reasons, it’s good to have at least a background in a bit of everything, but within the entirety of my four years in high school, no teachers, advisors or even my parents really seriously challenged me to start considering what I want to do. And I think this is where the system is flawed. We’re thrown into college, where we’re expected to pick a path and if we don’t, we could spend years taking classes we’ll later decide we don’t need to be taking. Because the high school system doesn’t prepare you for your professional future by any means, I think the college system of picking classes, choosing majors, and checking off those Spire boxes should be much more lenient.

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