College Degree Programs: The Great American Scam

There comes a time when every single student, at every single college in America, when, regardless of their major, sits in a class and asks themselves, “Why am I taking this? What does this have to do with my future?” You are sitting there right now, nodding your head, and I know firsthand, because I have three such classes this semester that I sit in wondrous amazement at just what the hell I’m doing there.

Unless you are a general education student, who just wants to get a taste of everything because you are unsure of what major you want to select, chances are, you are stuck taking classes that you neither need, nor want. A waste, wouldn’t you say? You go to a college and piss away hundreds or thousands of dollars to learn how to balance chemical equations in a chemistry class when you are a history major. Or, possibly, stuck learning about the French Revolution when all you want to do with your life is be a nuclear physicist.

Why is this the case, though? Your answer is as good as mine, but in the end, it just comes down to money. What are the most popular majors and courses out there? From personal observation (so don’t take this as an absolute when looking at the entire country) most are liberal arts, meaning the majority of students want absolutely nothing to do with math or science. Are colleges afraid they will be paying math and science teachers for half-empty classes, so they fix it so every class is full? At the same time, if you are on the other side of the spectrum, and you are a science or math major, you want nothing to do with history. We are all alike, you must understand. As I sit there cursing my professor inside my head while he tells me the coefficients of the formula for when Ammonium Chloride mixes with Hydrogen Oxide, you sit there cursing your professor when he lists the countries involved in World War I.

What is important to one is meaningless to the other, and there seems to be more nonsense than relevance. The reason I always keep getting, for why people must take classes outside of their concentration, is because colleges want their students to be “well-rounded”. Now just what does that mean, well-rounded? I take it to mean that colleges want us to have a little bit of knowledge in everything, with a lot of knowledge in one thing (a.k.a a major). That is all fine and dandy if you are going to school for free, which a select few can call themselves lucky enough to do, but for those shelling out thousands, it is nothing but an enormous waste of time and money. Here I am, a history major, having to take math, chemistry, and Italian (or any foreign language). As someone who wants to be a history teacher, I do not think I would ever encounter a situation where I would need any of these subjects. I highly doubt that while teaching a lesson on the causes of the Mexican-American War, a student would ask me what the difference between a physical or chemical change is, or how to say certain words in Italian—it just won’t happen.

If you are a journalism major, why should you have to learn algebra or physics? What if all you want to do in life is write? Will trigonometry help you? What if all you want to do is sit in a lab and try to find the cure for cancer? Will taking a class on medieval art or poetry help your conquest?

In other words, the phrase “well-rounded” is another way of saying, “We want your money”. It is nothing but B.S spewed to get more money out of students that are already hurting financially, or who will be paying college loans until the day they die. Colleges stopped caring about the student a long time ago, if they ever did to begin with.

And that is what annoys me, that they just don’t care or will say anything to get you to take a certain class. When it came time to picking a science, I had to decide between chemistry and biology (they should have asked me, “Would you rather cut off your right leg, or your left?”). Not being scientifically inclined, I asked for advice, and was told in these exact words, “Take Chemistry 116. It’s the science to take if you don’t like science.” Not being a fan, I enthusiastically said, “Sign me up!”. My friend did the same, and since he is not good at math, he asked his counselor about how much math is in this course. Her exact words to him? “Oh, there’s no math in this level course.” Why don’t you take a guess at what we have been doing in that class for two hours and forty-five minutes for each of the first three weeks?

As someone who has experience in teaching and is someone who has already taught high school students a few times, I know I can do this and I know this is what I want to do for a living. I have also learned that when it comes to teaching, you either have it or you don’t. You can have all the knowledge in the world, but if you can’t manage a classroom or have a personality, you will be an awful teacher—there is not a class out there you can take to change that, just like there is not one class out there that can get me to find a use for mathematics. I see myself teaching my CCD students, giving lectures, or even teaching a lesson or two at the high school every few months, and I see how close I am, and yet how far, all at the same time. It is highly frustrating, made even more so when the teacher I was observing with said to me, after I just finished teaching a lesson on the JFK assassination, “You don’t need me. You’re ready for this.” Well, I appreciate the comment, truly, it made me feel really good about myself, until I thought about all the money and time I will be wasting taking classes that are not even going to prepare me for my career.

There are certain classes everyone needs to take, I am not trying to revolutionize college degree programs. Every student should have to take English, because every career involves writing or reading in some way. As for advanced English classes? Like a research-paper course, not everyone needs something like that, except history, journalism, and well lookee here, science majors, for lab reports. But as for math, only math and science majors should have to take it. Science, same way. Computer classes should be reserved for engineering and technology majors, because let’s face it, if you don’t know how to do simple applications on the computer by now, you may not be wanting a career. As for foreign languages? I cannot find one reason to take one other than personal enjoyment or a hobby—I cannot be bothered with trying to learn chemistry formulas, learn math for the liberal arts, and memorize past participles of Italian words I won’t speak ever again once I leave this class (the killer is, two semesters of a language are needed for transfer.)

The basic idea behind all of this is COMMON SENSE. Let people take classes that they NEED, classes that will be important for their future. Don’t make nonsense mandatory, because it only inflames people, like me, when they know they are being indirectly insulted to their faces. Things need to change, and badly. Maybe Governor Christie should take his witch-burning crusade out of the public schools and into the colleges; he may find himself infinitely times more busy, dealing with much more crap than he is now.

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3 thoughts on “College Degree Programs: The Great American Scam

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention College Degree Programs: The Great American Scam « From New York to San Francisco -- Topsy.com

  2. Jumbo

    Greg,

    I graduated from college in 1979 and aside from what I learned in my major, I don’t use about 95% of what was taught to me in college courses. I had to take four semesters of physics, four semesters of calculus, physcial chemistry, and vector analysis and partial differential equations as required courses for my major. None of those courses have any relevance whatsoever to my current job.

    Until the Vietnam era, it was common for males to enter the Armed Services for four years upon graduating from high school while females worked as secretaries until they began to raise families. College was reserved for those who aspired to careeers like medicine, law and the like. Males who did not go into the service worked entry-level jobs starting at 17 or 18 years of age. In the 70’s the draft ended and the fallout from the Vietnam war led to a huge drop in males entering the service. I understand the dynamics but males emerged from the service with respect for authority and that is sorely lacking in today’s society.

    As enrollment in the service dropped, companies were flooded with high school graducates and gradually major corporations decided they did not want to hire 17 or 18 year olds, so they imposed an often arbitrary requirement that applicants had to have college degrees. As a result, companies started hiring college graduates at 21 or 22 years or age, with a slightly higher maturity level.

    College tuition has risen much higher than the rate of inflation since my days and I was fortunate to go to college at a time when federal and state grant programs were very generous. The most I ever paid in tuition was about $1,000 out of about $3,200 per year, with grants and a partial scholarship paying the remainder. I never had to take a student loan. Contrast that to today where tuition is about 10 times higher and there are horror stories of students being $100,000 or more in debt with no job. To me, college is the bigeest racket going!

    If colleges really wanted to produce “well-rounded” students, they would teach skills such as effective communications, interpersonal relationships and leadership. Those parameters are much more important for success in the workplace than book knowledge. If you have the chance to take one of more courses in these areas, I highly recommend that you do so.

    1. I took a public speaking course which definitely helped everyone in their communication skills. As you said, it is important that people learn how to converse with others in the work place, because spoken language is dying, thanks to texting and overuse on the computer–no one knows how to talk anymore. And I agree with all of your points.

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