Failing U?

I thought the University sought to turn out better educated human beings – and not just bachelor’s degrees.

by Katharine Hargreaves

Seeing as the end of the school year is fast approaching, I thought it would be an opportune moment to share my personal thoughts on education as it exists now, here at the University.

I realize that what I’m about to say is in no way representative of the student population. However, as I’ve talked more and more with other people I’ve come to realize that perhaps I’m not so alone in my experience. This realization is why I’m choosing to share my frustration and disenchantment with what I’ve come to view as the “empty promises” of a traditional university system.

Here’s the thing: I decided to come to school here because I wanted a good education, yes. But at the same time, my expectations for college included much more than just a static, classroom-based learning environment; I was looking for an all-around experience, per se, one that would strengthen, define and empower me as both student and person.

Yet after four years of classes and adviser meetings, five semesters of Italian, internships and homework, I still feel like I’m floundering to find a purpose within it all. Not to say that I don’t have any – I do – but more and more I find myself creating it independent of the University. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but at the same time, not necessarily a task I should have had to shoulder alone. After all, I went to college so that professors with more knowledge than me could help guide me down paths I would have never otherwise explored. But hey, maybe I’m just idealistic.

I don’t know about anyone else’s goals, but I enrolled at the University for what I assumed (my bad!) was part of the entire education package: not just classes, but personal growth; not just 18 credits a semester, but a building and refining of skills and knowledge; not just a series of bureaucratic hoops to jump through (The Four-Year Graduation program, anyone?), but an intense, personal and cumulative program that sought to turn out better-educated human beings – and not just bachelor degrees.

Why are we pushing students to graduate in four years when learning should, ideally, be a process we undertake at our own pace? Why, as an English major, am I required to take two years of a language I won’t use instead of, say, an arts-focused internship? Wouldn’t that skill be more applicable in a real-world situation? Hey, did you know how hard it is to get a job as an English major? Good thing I took Intro to Astronomy! What’s the use of Shakespeare anyway, if I’m not taking it for the right reasons?

Mull these thoughts over. I’m out of space but there will be more on this next time, folks – either that or an excerpt from my self-published spoken-word piece. I can’t decide.

Kat Hargreaves welcomes comments at [email protected].