The Case For A Self-Determined Education

Abolishing majors for a better education

The more time I spend here, the more frustrated I become with the university that I sort of chose to go to.

In response to the administration’s mismanagement of funds, they have chosen to merge small departments of similar goals within the College or Arts and Humanities & Social Sciences in order to consolidate funds. These mergers are happening while HSU undergoes assessment to become a polytechnic university, which would further emphasize STEM above the humanities. This hurts all students.

STEM majors may easily get the idea that they don’t need to develop communication skills, hurting their chances of conveying what their research means. Humanities majors will have a harder time receiving a decent education as their programs shrink to accommodate STEM, potentially encouraging them to leave or not enroll in the first place. Undeclared majors may feel pressured to choose one based on the resources available to them, rather than what excites them.

As an alternative I propose we abolish the major system entirely. Hear me out.

How many interesting classes have you enjoyed that didn’t count towards your requirements? And how many classes did you consider taking, only to realize that you can’t fit them in and graduate on time? Now what if any and all classes counted towards your degree?

Here’s what I propose. We stop using set lists of classes, and allow students to explore several fields. Any class where a student learns something new should count towards their graduation requirements. Taking preselected major classes limits student adaptability.

The Bureau Of Labor Statistics shows that Americans will have an average of 12 jobs in their lifetime, and only 27% of college graduates work in a field related to their degree. So why major?

In theory, a single discipline allows you to develop skills that will enable you to be successful in your chosen career. But your career will likely shift away from your degree the longer you are in the workforce. Exploring several fields in college will give you more versatility as you change careers later in life.

While we do need writers who can write, and programmers who can code, we also need to recognize that all types of careers are interconnected. A writer one year may be a filmmaker the next, and may enter a completely different profession the following year.

In modern times, everyone needs a comprehensive understanding of writing, anti-racism, science, especially as it relates to the ecosystem. A handful of GE classes won’t cut it. Forcing students to take classes they know will not help them in the future is unethical. Let us choose from any and all disciplines. Allow us to explore and develop a range of skills and knowledge.

More broadly, consider the real harm created by a specialized education that doesn’t acknowledge the need to question racial or other stereotypical biases. A 2016 study showed that 76% of white med students hold at least one false racist belief, including thicker skin, stronger immune systems and a higher pain tolerance than white patients. Two-thirds of women lawyers report sexual harassment by thier male peers, and that number is higher for women of color. Stated plainly, a high-level degree does not translate well-educated.

Everyone needs a holistic education that allows them to question all aspects of life and build transferable skills. We need scientists who can convey research in an understandable way, teachers who are both experts in their fields and can connect and communicate with students. (Math teachers, I’m looking at you.)

There are standards to be upheld. The graduation proficiency exam could incorporate ways to test people on the qualifications of the field they’re about to enter, ensuring that their courses were chosen with a goal in mind. But we should also acknowledge that most specialized careers require grad school or on-site training.

We don’t need to major. We need to learn, explore, and better ourselves.

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