Anna Gregoline | April 14, 2005
Is there too much emphasis placed on grades in our educational system? What motivates you to strive for good grades in college? Attendence requirements? Interesting coursework? SHOULD college students be required to attend classes?

Should college students have complete freedom to choose their own courses? Or should all college courses be specifically related to one's future occupation?

Which courses that you did not take in high school or college do you now wish you had taken? Why? Which of the college courses that you have had do you consider to be the most beneficial?

Should a graduating college senior be required to pass a comprehensive examination in his or her major before receiving a degree? Why or why not?

Very exam-y questions, but ones I think that could spark a good discussion. =)

Kris Weberg | April 14, 2005
-- Is there too much emphasis placed on grades in our educational system? What motivates you to strive for good grades in college? Attendence requirements? Interesting coursework? SHOULD college students be required to attend classes?

Grade inflation, not emphasis on grades, is the problem. Students should be required to attend class, and anyone getting a C avergae or lower is out on their ear. All that motivates most kids is the necessity of a degree for non-McDonald's employment.

-- Should college students have complete freedom to choose their own courses? Or should all college courses be specifically related to one's future occupation?

No. I am anti-professionalization -- every student should leave college with vocational skills, sure, but also with the tools to understand and evaluate (in necesaarily limited ways) information related to literature, films, art, hard sciences, history and conventional economics.

-- Which courses that you did not take in high school or college do you now wish you had taken? Why? Which of the college courses that you have had do you consider to be the most beneficial?

High school: none. College? More hard science, more economics, more philosophy, more English....really, I'd take everything from the intro level on up if I were allowed to.

-- Should a graduating college senior be required to pass a comprehensive examination in his or her major before receiving a degree? Why or why not?

Of a sort -- an original, well-written senior thesis of some length should be required in all disciplines. In sciences, this would take the form of an experiment, results, and extended analysis coupled with suggestions for further research. Papers would be graded by a committee of three profs chosen by the student and approved by the department chair.

Jackie Mason | April 14, 2005
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Kris Weberg | April 14, 2005
I wasn't arguing that a majority of courses should be non-major courses, just that the idea of general electives and alternate or interdisciplinary perspectives within a major are more important than current curricula make them out to be.

Scott Hardie | April 15, 2005
The system works pretty well as it is. Students are free to choose their own courses, with help from a guidance counselor who knows what they need, and rules from the university requiring a certain minimum combination of classes to graduate. In most college majors, there is the senior project that Kris describes, in some form or another.

Where I draw the line, and this is veering into illogical territory for me, is on required attendance. I've explained this many times – TC veterans, bear with me – but I skipped a hell of a lot of college classes, perhaps as many as 60% in total. Little surprise: The courses with no attendance requirement, such as the one in which Anna and I first became friends but I attended less than a half-dozen times, tended to be ones where I earned an A, because I was judged based on my merit. Only when that damned technicality of my attendance was applied against my grade did I wind up with a C or D, no matter how good my work in the class. It was an albatross around my neck.

I was one of the students Kris doesn't like, I think: The kid who is only in it for a degree. I didn't want to study, and I didn't want to do homework, and I especially did not want to go to class. But my future would have been Taco Bell if I didn't pursue the degree, so I pursued the degree, and I faked only as much enthusiasm as was needed to get by. The subject matter I was studying was interesting, but it wasn't enough to overcome my dislike of school in general. So, forgive me Kris, but I was there to get the piece of paper and get the hell out. And I won't hold it against the millions of college students like me that go to college out of obligation.

For the first year or two out of school, I had such a hard time getting a job that I regretted choosing an English major on the basis of enjoying literature and creative writing. Had I chosen to major in my second love, psychology, I figured that I would have at least had a career waiting for me beyond the final final exam. But now that I have wound up in a career that I enjoy, working a job that has nothing to do with either English or psychology but only required that single sheet of paper with the dean's signature on it, I find myself glad that I went with my first love after all. I'll never be anywhere near as literate as Kris or Anna, but I do value the manner of thinking that being an English major taught me, of looking for symbolism and speaking via metaphor and understanding the important relationship between life and art. Other majors have some overlap of course, but there's nothing else quite like it.

Kris Weberg | April 15, 2005
My argument is that too many people manage to get a degree, and professional qualifications, without getting much else along the way. Those are the sorts of people I dislike.

As to attending classes -- it's part of the deal along with, yes, homework. If you don't have to study to pass a course, the course isn't teaching you anything you couldn't have learned on your own, and it shouldn't exist.

Not everyone who skips class or is just in it for the degree is an autodidact like you, Scott. A lot of them are antididacts, and probably don't belong in college.

Anna Gregoline | April 15, 2005
I am literate! Argh, not compared to Kris I'm not. I should have paid more attention in school but I was too busy with life.

I wish that college had been slightly more engaging, and less about the droning lectures.

Kris Weberg | April 15, 2005
I'm not that literate, I just fake it really well.

Scott Hardie | April 16, 2005
This is coming from my own background, I know, but I have to wonder if your problem, Kris, isn't with society-at-large placing emphasis on meaningless degrees. I'm one of millions of Americans who do not use their college education in their careers in any way, and yet could not have those careers without the degrees. I could have majored in astronomy or criminal justice or peanut butter; it wouldn't have mattered as long as I had that special piece of paper at the end. Millions of us never would have set foot on a college campus if society didn't practically demand it of us. I know, I know, I'm being a big ol' liberal Dumb-ocrat by saying you should blame society instead of the individual, but I offer myself as Exhibit A.

Patrick Little | April 16, 2005
However Scott I would argue that your education had an effect on who you are. Degrees certainly are not the route to profitable vocational that they once were. Unfortnately, alot of students are not paying attention to what was going on while they were at the educational institution of their choice. I pretty much know that was not the case with you Scott.

Jackie Mason | April 16, 2005
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