Yo yo yo She-bombers!
Today, I want to talk to you all about something relevant to us all: Amherst’s open curriculum. This almost-zero-requirements policy is what attracted me (and of course many others) to Amherst College in the first place. After 12 straight years of onerous public school regulation, I love finally having agency over my own intellectual growth. I can’t help but feel for my friends who waste their first college years trudging through required courses that mean nothing to either them or their professors.
But there are definite dangers in our open-curriculum policy. I genuinely believe that some Amherst students graduate having learned almost nothing. I think there are enough relatively easy courses–and enough grade inflation–to cover up some horrible academic performance. Generally speaking, however, I don’t believe this is a common problem. Most students I know are exceptionally driven; they don’t work hard for the grade or the diploma, but because they genuinely wish to be educated, well-rounded individuals. Maybe I’m just trying to live out some sappy Dead Poet Society fantasy, and in actuality, the state of our student body is far grimmer than I’d like to admit…but I don’t think so.
Regardless, the issue still remains: how can Amherst guarantee that each student graduate with a certain number of skills, and what skills should those be?
In answering this question, I’d like to put the emphasis on useful skills–not skills that look good on your resume, or that conform to our country’s whack idea of public education. For example, I would never support mandatory calculus. If some student wants to pursue a career in math, then fantastic, take calculus! If not, then that student would be better off enrolled in mandatory how-to-pay-bills. Now that’s a required course I would endorse.
Here are some other courses I think every college student should take:
- How To Do Your Taxes
The reasoning behind this seems obvious…does anyone know how to do their own taxes? I’m a dependent, which basically means I have maybe 3 pages of taxes to fill out max, and I still screw it up every year. Considering that we all have to pay taxes every year, I’m honestly surprised instructions for this procedure haven’t found their way into our school systems yet. The only issue I see with this course is the incorporation of international students…frankly, I haven’t figured out what to do with them. But maybe in this Utopian Amherst I’ve imagined the international students can just be exempt.
- How to Navigate Our Country’s Legal System
Again, the reasons are obvious. So you’ve found yourself in jail for a crime you didn’t commit? A cop comes busting through your door, and you think you should ask him for a warrant, but you’re afraid he’ll throw some legal mumbo-jumbo at you? Well thank god you can now tap into your fine Amherst education.
On an even grander scale, you’d like to see a law passed, but you have no idea where to start? You never listened in high school to American History (because seriously, was anyone listening?), and now you can’t tell the difference between a Senator and a Supreme Court Justice? Not quite sure what the Bill of Rights says? Imagine what the world would be if we all knew the answers to these important questions!
- The Human Body
I’m not talking yeast-budding Biology—I’m talking straight-up Anatomy and Physiology. Let’s put to rest any misconceptions we might have about our own bodies, and move on as educated adults. The ideal Human Body course would cover not only anatomy and physiology, but also a wide array of helpful topics, such as nutrition, CPR, and how to survive various natural disasters.
It is my firm belief that if Amherst made these courses required for every student, we would all be going to possibly the greatest school on Earth (especially now with the new Frost Café). Just think of a world where fresh college grads actually new how to be adults (mostly)! I’m all about liberal arts education, I really am. But I think it’s both important and refreshing to remember the real world every once in a while, and not get completely swept up in the theoretical.
Thinking about transferring to this Amherst-Utopia? Or, thinking about burning it down? Lemme know! Either way, thanks for reading!
Doin me since 1991,