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No knowledge needed

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This quotation from a freshman appeared today in a curriculum story in our student-run campus newspaper:

You should only have to take classes in your major. Classes that have no impact on your major are useless. You’re never going to have to use them.

I’m so flabbergasted by this I don’t know where to begin.

I do know this: She could not function as a journalism major (I teach in a journalism school). Our major teaches students how to write; the remaining 75 percent of their college coursework gives them something to write about.

I’m hard-pressed to think of other majors that could operate in a vacuum of “no additional knowledge needed.” How could this student, after graduation, possible operate in our increasingly complex society?

I don’t want this person to vote on any issue that would affect me. How could her vote possibly be informed?

Sadly, I know that many other college students — not all of them freshmen, either — think this way.

They arrive in college not knowing enough. They pass through college believing they need to know little more.

And we’re leaving control of our governments and corporations to such people? I hope the process of “weeding out” so ruthlessly operated by the “real” world will identify and dismiss such anti-knowledge miscreants.


Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

April 28, 2006 at 1:53 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

8 Responses

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  1. I don’t want this person to vote on any issue that would affect me. How could her vote possibly be informed?
    Lots of people vote with only high school diplomas or less. This isn’t much different. It frightens me sometimes too, to think how ill-informed people are, but that’s one of the prices of democracy: giving the ignorant equal power.
    I also think it might be worth pointing out that many other school systems DON’T permit schoolwork outside of your major. While I did not attend a Canadian university, my understanding is that most Canadian students cannot take coursework outside of their major/minor’s faculty, and sometimes, outside of their major. There is very little room for electives unrelated to the major in the Canadian system. And I’d say that Canada is doing quite well for itself.


    April 28, 2006 at 5:57 pm

    • You make several good points. I supposed I’m overly shocked because it’s a student at my university who said this. You’re correct, of course, that people without a college education can fare well. But presumably those people did not automatically reject the notion of learning more than they think they need.
      I still wouldn’t want a student with this attitude in my classroom. And I’ve passed the point where I’m willing to spend enormous amounts of time trying to persuade such a person that this point of view ain’t all that productive in the long run.
      Thanks for your comment (astute as usual).

      Dr. Denny

      April 28, 2006 at 6:36 pm

    • I have to disagree gently on part of your point. I know a number of people with high school diplomas or less who DO realize they need to know something about a lot of things. My dad, who was not able to afford a college education, has never stopped being curious about the world around him, reading and learning. I rather suspect some of my own attitude toward learning being lifelong comes from him.
      I don’t think it’s how much formal education someone has. I think it’s a matter of being narrow-minded, feeling you don’t need to know about something unless it directly affects you and feeling you stop learning when you graduate. Sadly, I know college graduates with that same problem.


      April 28, 2006 at 8:51 pm

  2. You said: “They arrive in college not knowing enough.”
    They arrive in college not knowing enough–but often thinking they know it all.
    This is the generation that’s had everything handed to it. In that context, I have to admit that we don’t always do a very good job of explaining the relevance of their coursework (especially the coursework outside their majors). If our job is to awaken a spirit of inquiry, then perhaps one of the things we can awaken as part of that is that sense of relevance.
    Having said that, I get really annoyed by students, like the one you referred to, who display an obviously piss-poor, know-it-all attitude.


    April 29, 2006 at 1:55 am

  3. Class of 2010 Will Miss Out
    Dr. Wilkins,
    To intoduce myself so you don’t wonder who is randomly commenting on your blog, my name is Rich Place. You may remember me from summer media camp, as well as the student who is currently writing an article about you in Prof. Willingham’s class (remember the “three strikes” e-mail?) This is the first time I have left a comment for one of your blogs, although I have been reading them since I joined LiveJournal about two months ago.
    As I read excerpts of this article aloud Friday to a group of four friends, they had the same opinion that the author did: All we need to learn about is our major. Who cares about other subjects?
    Although I was the only journalism student in the room (the others were either physical education or business majors), we debated about the issue. At the beginning of my freshman year, I didn’t like the three-course sequence. My mind had the same attitude as the author and my friend: learn your major and you’ll be all set.
    I am taking three history courses to fill my requirement, and after almost completing my first one I realized that this might want to be a subject to minor in. Thanks to the three-course sequence, I expanded my horizon. I was disappointed that members of the Class of 2010 and beyond might miss out on a subject matter they don’t even realize intrigues them.
    I give tours on Saturday mornings to potential students and their parents, and they all seem to have one thing in common: none of them like the idea of Clare College. One parent even asked me if there is a way for her son to not take the classes because they are not religious people. This puzzled me – I don’t know how people can expect to attend a Franciscan institute and not learn a little about Catholicism.


    April 30, 2006 at 6:53 am

    • Re: Class of 2010 Will Miss Out
      Wow. A college student who actually expanded his horizons — IN COLLEGE!! Good for you, Rich. I’m impressed. 🙂


      April 30, 2006 at 4:10 pm

    • Re: Class of 2010 Will Miss Out
      Hey Rich,
      I’m also in the J/MC program. When I transferred to this school, I had the same view as the parents in your tour groups. I have since realized that without this background in one of the world’s top three religions, in terms of members, is important for antone to know.
      I am still leary about the approach used in Clare courses. THere are time when these courses seem to be used to try to convert to Catholicism. I know that that isn’t what the university means to have in the curriculum.
      As far as the three-course sequence goes, I also think it should have stayed. Not only were students able to pick the subject involved, but the students were able to enrich their learning experience at SBU.
      Let me just say, in case the above seems a little jumbled (still working off the capstone haze), I agree that this is going to hurt the incoming classes tremendously.
      It seems as though the University is raising the price while they cut the quality of the commodity. How much longer can this work? Tricks, gimmicks and devices to attempt to raise the enrollment like this are going to hurt the school in the long run. I just hope the Jandoli School is able to keep its great reputation and stay above the fray.


      April 30, 2006 at 10:54 pm

  4. Wanna really be frightened?
    Just commenting on this. I agree with you. However, I don’t know that education necessarily makes one a better voter, as Carole mentioned. A fellow Ph.D. student (she now has her Ph.D. and is the director of a grad. program in Florida somewhere) voted for G.W. simply because she thought he looked sexy in cowboy boots.
    That disturbs me everytime I read it – or think about it. Needless to say, we don’t stay in touch really.


    May 10, 2006 at 3:38 am

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