October 3, 2013
Like every senior, I started the year by checking my degree audit to see how many classes I have left to take before graduation. The excitement grew with every scroll as I saw fewer and fewer red letters indicating that I had required classes remaining. Core curriculum, check. Major, check. Minor, check.
Then I realized something: I hadn’t taken any classes I wanted to take.
Coming into college as a freshman, I had high hopes for my education at Santa Clara. I thought I would never have to take math or science, and I could take classes that sparked my interest. I made a list of the most enticing classes offered at the university, and then I registered for none of them.
My college career hasn’t been guided by my passions or thirst for knowledge, but dictated by Santa Clara’s list of requirements to complete a degree. Santa Clara isn’t the only college to have requirements, of course, but that doesn’t make them necessarily useful.
The phrase “core requirements” is often met with disdain. Not only do we have to meet the obligations of our majors and minors, but we also have to take many of the classes we hated in high school. And we have to do it in just four years.
Students spend their whole lives looking forward to the freedom and autonomy of being a college student. But in reality, you’re given only a narrow scope of classes to choose from to fulfill your requirements. Yes, we get to pick five classes from a list of 10, but since we’re limited to that list, it’s not really choosing.
Students often say, “What does this class count for?” or “That doesn’t count for anything, so I’m not going to take it”? It may not “count” for a requirement, but it absolutely “counts” for life.
Taking classes that are interesting to you may be more beneficial than taking something just because someone else thinks you should. It may not count in terms of crossing another class off your list of requirements, but if it motivates you to engage in the world and seek further education, it counts.
What if we didn’t have a core curriculum?
A better system would be if students were allowed to declare a major, and then take whatever classes they deemed relevant to the completion of that major, so long as it was a certain amount of units prior to graduation. This way, students would be able to take their education into their own hands.
An alternative to having the core curriculum would be to make it the responsibility of each student to construct their own curriculum based on their own needs and passions. We don’t need core requirements for students to fulfill mindlessly.
Currently, the requirements do not inspire free thinking nor independence. As a student, what do you gain by letting someone who has never met you tell you what you’re interested in?
Of course, in theory, there are benefits to having core requirements. It forces students to keep a broad perspective on education, and further their knowledge of the subjects deemed necessary by society. That point is valid, but this isn’t what students want out of their college education Classes that undergraduates are forced to take don’t actually motivate learning. All they do is motivate us to zone out and wait for it to be time for the next class — one that we chose independently.
Since we began our formal schooling in kindergarten, we’ve followed a system of priorities without knowing where they came from, or why they exist. Our education was designed by someone who has never met us. Each and every student is different, but in the case of education, differences are limited and controlled by the university.
Transitioning to a curriculum without core requirements would be a challenge — but it is a risk worth taking. Going to college is about growing up, becoming responsible, becoming free thinkers. Students should be given a chance to follow their hearts on the path of education, without being limited to taking obligatory classes.
Maybe then, with more chances to choose what we want to learn, the experience for undergraduate students everywhere will be the expansive and transformative journey we set out on.
Alexandra Armas is a senior communication major.