It is that time of year again to register for the next semester's classes. Some of us have already had the chance to register; some of you are going through the process, while sophomores and freshman still have a few days to go. I can honestly say this is my least favorite time of the year. Not only is it the final push of exams and papers before finals, but we also get to schedule appointments with our advisors and worry whether you can get into a class you desperately need. Every semester when I get the email reminder about registration I can't help but think of one of the nurses from "One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest" calling out "Medication time." Picking classes and meeting with advisors truly can be a mind numbing process. Thank God for open advising sessions and nice department administrators, because I've only met with my assigned advisor twice. Something about our first meeting gave me a bad impression of her. Maybe it was her saying that "she hates being an advisor and it is a waste of her time." Yeah, that might have been it.
I am a history major, which is a pretty straightforward process. Take this class as a sophomore, take that class as a senior, pick a concentration and take a class in each of these other categories for a total of 10 classes. This is a pretty similar format for most majors, but it made me realize something. To graduate from UNH in four years you need to take four classes a semester that equals 32 classes in those four years. The disturbing part is that only four of those 10 classes can actually be in my concentration without taking extra classes. That means only FOUR out of the 32 classes I take at UNH will be in my desired field of study. I have already taken all four of those and I can honestly say I am nowhere close to being an expert in modern United States history. I have done well and know more about American history than the average student, but this makes me think: What have I (read: mostly my parents) actually been paying for?
I point my finger at the general education system, which might be the biggest waste of time and money for a college student who knows what he or she wants to do from day one. I can only take four classes in my concentration, but I have to take three sciences. Does that really make sense? Especially when those sciences are classes like Germs 101, Making Babies, NR 435 or other classes that might be interesting, but you can get an "A" without opening a book. Some general education classes can be tough, but in no way do they actually apply to anything I am slightly interested in. I tried taking some classes that can be related to my field like political science, psychology and environmental history, but in the long run general education courses have been very disappointing.
I have taken all of the general education courses I need to graduate; I'm not sure if a single one of them has made me a more intelligent and well-rounded human being. Sure I know arbitrary facts on random topics, but I can get that off Snapple caps or Wikipedia. The new Discovery Program that was initiated for this year's freshmen sought to revamp the general education system, but I really don't see too much of a difference. The whole idea of general education requirements is to encourage students to have a broader field of study while in college, but doesn't that backfire when students just take the easiest classes available? How many students will take general chemistry if there is another class called "Making Babies?"
General education courses are just an excuse for a university, which really is just a giant business, to make more money. If we are forced to take these classes, then we need to pay more to take other classes in our field over the summer, or J-term or as a graduate student. Every semester there are dozens of classes I really want to take within my major, classes I'm truly interested in and would enjoy doing the work for (how appalling that would be!), but instead I'm stuck in a random general education course that I don't give a shit about. That is not fair, and that is not right.
Stay classy, not UMassy.