Monday, February 3, 2014

On General Ed. Frenna Sends In Some Links on "Filler Classes."

from the Iowa State Daily:

I already know what
I want to study!
We come to college in search of one thing: knowledge in our chosen program of study. Getting a college degree is supposed to help us easily find an entry-level job after graduation. Eagerly, we follow our designated four-year plans to a tee, in the hope of achieving the most out of our education.

There is a flaw in this system. In reality, students are being cheated out of valuable course hours by taking classes that will never be of much use in their future careers. These precious hours are wasted on what are known as general education requirements.

From the start of our first semester, general education classes fill the credit count towards our graduation. These courses are supposed to turn young, fresh college students into well-rounded adults. Each college at Iowa State requires a certain number of credit hours in the humanities, natural sciences, social sciences and mathematics.

Each of those categories carries valuable knowledge to offer the students attending Iowa State, but students are required to take a ridiculous amount of these filler classes before graduation.

The rest of the misery.


from the Ames Tribune.

On Wednesday, I read a great satirical article in the ISU Daily. It was titled “General education requirements waste students’ time” and was written by Jamie Wandschneider.

The setup for this hilarious piece was that “students are being cheated out of valuable course hours by taking classes that will never be of much use in their future careers. These precious hours are wasted on what are known as general education requirements.”

Wandschneider proceeded to talk about the waste of time imposed on students when they have to take courses in the humanities, natural sciences, social sciences and mathematics. These were referred to as “filler” classes.

What a hoot!

More misery.


  1. Wandschneider's opinion piece in the Iowa State Daily is funny, but unintentionally so. Schmidt's rejoinder in the Ames Tribune is intentionally funny but deadly serious. If Wandschneider soft-served the first piece with the intent that a yet-unknown opponent would soundly defeat it on the return, then he succeeded. But I doubt he's that sophisticated.

    My reactions to Wandschneider's piece ran the continuum from laughing to wanting to puke. I saw some of myself in his words, for I likely said similar things to my collegiate classmates (particularly as a sophmore, natch).

    My high school had given me a broad foundation, including introducing me to the best-known Socratic paradox. By college, I thought I was ready to specialize more than my program would allow, but I had to grudgingly concede that they could be onto something, and so I thought it unwise to take them on myself, in public. As you could guess, years later I would see the wisdom of their approach and cringe at my former self's naivete.

  2. Well then, don't even bother going to university! Go to a technical school if you want a quick, narrow education in your chosen field. Of course you can foretell your future when you are 18 or 19.

    1. So can administrators, who all have crystal balls that perfectly predict what's going to happen in the next 5 - 50 years. The "accuracy" of those spheres increases with the inverse of the backgrounds those administrators have in the areas they make their forecasts in. In other words, administrators with degrees in hamster fur technology will be seen as experts in predicting technical developments in, say, electronics, and the corresponding numbers of workers required.

      However, if their prognostications turned out to be wrong, the graduates who were affected by that can always come back for *retraining*, can't they?

  3. I thought Professor Schmidt's rejoinder was perfect.

    The reason we don't let undergrads decide what constitutes a liberal education is that they wouldn't know one if it walked up, pissed on their legs, and bit them on the arse. Same goes for our legislators here in Cheeseheadland, many of whom have degrees but still vote to punish the state system that they took advantage of, but that is not for the peons who should be working in factories, if we had any around here anymore (other than the cheese factories). The fact that they had to sit through a lit class is cause enough for them to go after "useless" "filler" so that we can just focus on our "real" jobs: turning out workers who will be grateful for whatever crumbs the 1% throw their way.

  4. I am a scientist and I got an English minor to go with my Hamsterology degree. I was surprised how many prof's were puzzled by this during my grad school interviews. I guess they don't write articles or grants? *smacks head*

    1. Yah, I'm a scientist, and I double-majored in music.

  5. Wandschneider's examples do have a certain fish-in-the-barrel-ready-for-shooting quality (journalists who shouldn't be somewhat knowledgeable, or at least curious, about everything? architects -- or anybody -- who do(es)n't need to understand economics?).

    One (wo)man's filler is another (wo)man's foundation.

  6. While I was an undergraduate, I was required to fulfill some arts options. The one course I thought might have some bearing on my discipline turned out to be completely useless and a waste of my time. As it turned out, a lot of people like me took that course because it just happened to fit into our timetables.

  7. Things I regret: going to a school with no Gen Ed requirements to graduate, majoring in a department with no requirements for the Hamster Studies major, getting to graduate school just at the moment they were dismantling the system of required courses for the Ph.D. in Hamster Studies. A thing I am glad I did: take the minimum 3 science and 3 social science classes required in addition to my Hamster Studies major to qualify for Phi Beta Kappa -- because I was introduced to computer programming, biology, oceanography, psychology, sociology, Latin American history, linguistics, and child development when otherwise I'd just have studied imaginative works of and by hamsters. A thing I did after getting my B.A.: meet people who had systematically studied everything Hamsterary, and fall on my face in front of them. A thing I did after getting my Ph.D.: frantically scrabble to acquire all the Hamsterary knowledge I'd immaturely designated as obsolete even despite falling on my face. A thing I argue for in my own Hamster Studies department at both the undergrad and grad level: required courses. Things I wish I'd taken at least one course in as an undergrad: anthropology, American history, religion, economics, college-level mathematics, botany, art history, theater.


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