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Jumping Loop-Holes: What's Wrong with College Requirements

Updated on February 3, 2012
What is the education system really doing for me?
What is the education system really doing for me? | Source

Not my Mama's college education

I am 22-years-old, in my fourth year of college, and by all conventional standards, I should be matriculating in May with all the other 2008 high school graduates who passed on to the high-stakes world of higher education. When I was a brace-faced teenager, I dreamed of four golden years in the glorious halls of an ancient university, and I always swore that I’d never change my major.

But, alas, personal insecurities shot that horse in the foot. Since leaving my first college, I’ve transferred to a new school, so now (cover your ears, preteen self) I’m on the 4.5-6 year plan, depending on factors that include my willingness to sit through Applied Biology and take two English composition classes that I should be exempt from (according to my ACT and SAT scores). I must also complete a major in the same field but with entirely different requirements from my last one.

Previously, I attended a conservatory-like program at a state school for two years as an Acting Performance major, so a large percentage of the credits that transferred with me were performance-specific. My new college doesn’t take every class I took at my last college because of their specificity, so now two years of education becomes about ¾ of a year of entry-level general education credits and a charming handful of elective credits. So whoop-dee-doo, I don’t have to fulfill any elective credits at my new school.

Ah, but what about those general education credits that I should be exempt from?

Well, that would require that my new college ACCEPT the ACT and SAT scores that I busted my proverbial bum to get, in spite of the fact that standardized testing is a poor way to test the real capacities of individual students (this is a bitter subject that I won’t get into, but Google ‘what’s wrong with standardized testing’). I scored an 11 out of 12 on the SAT writing portion and a 31 on the reading portion of the ACT’s, not to mention an entire forest of advanced CSAP literacy scores from elementary through high school. At my last college, these scores exempted me from one, just ONE measly entry-level English composition class, even though one of my college application essays is being used as by a private university (that I denied acceptance and a half-ride scholarship to) as their prime example that they send out to every applicant.

“Why not test out of it?” you ask me, stabbing a finger at the ‘convenient’ policy that, in theory, allows students to exempt themselves from general education credits.

Why not? Because those tests want to know if I can grasp concepts like dangling modifiers and proper comma usage (which, by the way, I am a staunch defender of the Oxford comma and a self-proclaimed grammar Nazi), but they don’t test my actual SKILLS as a functioning human being.Is someone out in the ‘Real World’ going to make sure I know what an adverb is? Will I have to explain to my boss why starting a sentence with ‘and’ is improper, or have to justify my comma usage?

Maybe. But in the mean time, what about students who don’t have a vibrant lexicon, or at least a really great thesaurus and truly struggle with Language Arts? Why are we required to take the same class when we have different needs?

On the other hand, I am not sure I could pass a science class if it was shaped like a football and my teammates and I were holding hands. And I’m expected to take TWO of them, ONE WITH A LAB! Do you know what the words ‘one with a lab’ translate to in my brain? ‘Might as well drop out.’

I nearly failed science every year of middle and high school, only passing with an A in 7th grade because my teacher was a creepster and probably a pedophile and liked to spray his female students with a squirt gun and likely got sacked a few years later for embezzlement. But this is neither here nor there.

I am not good at science. Period. The idea that you could remember numbers, symbols, and solutions, plus how they all go together, what they do, at what heat they explode or boil or turn into a viscous blob… that to me is like stabbing myself in the eye with a sharp stick while trying the turn the stick into a brick and build a house with it. I will never need to know the boiling point of Gatorade or how to dissect a pig fetus (somebody call PETA), and I definitely don’t need to know about things like Prions (which I only remember because they’re completely terrifying and a silent killer. Mad Cow disease. Enough said.).

Why do I need two science classes to graduate? Why did I need the same advanced American History class twice in high school, and have to test on it for AP, and then still have to take it in college? Did they think I’d forget that Thomas Jefferson killed Benjamin Franklin in a duel and our national bird is the turkey? Joke. I can’t name every president this country is ever had (I could probably name a fair amount of them if I slept with a presidential placemat under my pillow) and I can’t tell you about all the little wars we fought (though I know the important ones, like that pesky war with England).

I understand that our education system is in place to make sure that we enter the working world educated in our field and ‘well-rounded’. Now there’s a buzz term. Well-rounded. Definition: the ability to vaguely understand, at least partly, a little something about everything, including things you’ll never need or care about. If I ever NEED to know the periodic symbol for Gold I will pay you a gold dollar.

So the real question here is this: What do I ACTUALLY need in the working world?

In the entertainment field, actors are recruited as young as infancy. Some never go to college and spend their childhoods educated on-set by a tutor. Some are scouted in shopping malls or ice cream parlors and never once do they have to sit in a college classroom while somebody drones on about the life cycle of a common housefly. Clearly, they didn’t need a degree to achieve an admirable level of success.(that’s not to discount real, thorough acting study because you can often tell the difference between a studied actor and a raw talent).

For as long as I remember, the media has told me that if I don’t get a degree, I’ll have a really hard time getting a job- oh wait, now they’re telling me that degrees aren’t as valuable as they once were- but wait, my parents raised me that education is incredibly important- but OH Miley Cyrus got her own tv show because her dad is famous for singing about his heart problems… Do I need a degree or not? Steve Jobs didn’t have a degree. And he conquered technology! Well, he had a little help…

I am so envious of people who say things like: “I’ve known I wanted to act since age 3 when I saw Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” But come on! I wanted to be a princess and ballerina and veterinarian and lawyer and soccer player and architect and teacher and psychologist and writer and director and photographer before I ever wanted to act, and now that I’m picky and stubborn, I only audition for parts I think I’ll grow from.I have many strengths and I don’t know if I love any one of those things enough to say “If I don’t do _________ with my life, I’ll die.” Can’t I just major in Life?

In this statistic that I created from asking Google, the average adult changes their career 3-6 times in their life… So I’m getting a degree for just one of those careers, but I’m likely to change it five more times? Where’s the logic in that? That’s like buying a frozen turkey for Thanksgiving and then going to McDonald’s for dinner.

In all likelihood, I’ll probably finish my degree kicking and screaming so I have a piece of paper to wave at my ten year high school reunion proving that I didn’t get stuck in my hometown, but that doesn’t mean I’ll like it.

What do I like about college? The people. I have met some incredibly quality people, especially in the film and theatre field. They are creative, driven, all-around inspirational, and they all make me want to step up my game. That’s a better education that I could ever get in a classroom. Learning from my peers, who value the knowledge I already have and are willing to share their own expertise.

In an ideal world, degrees would be molded to fit your needs. I don’t need Applied Biology to be an actress or a writer or a director. What I do need is practical application of my knowledge. I don’t want to be lectured on how to make a movie, I want to make a movie. I am lucky to be in a department that at least allows for camera familiarity, stage and screen acting opportunities, and a closer look at the filmmaking process. It’s the Gen Eds that come up short. And so I ask you (improperly because I began with ‘and’), what is the Education System doing for me? There is something wrong with the way things are run in the American educational system and it’s time for reform.

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    • Alecia Murphy profile image

      Alecia Murphy 5 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

      I agree totally. I graduated college in 2010 but barely got it done in four years at one university with two majors. It was only because of stacking classes and summer courses that I avoided an extra year/semester.

      The same can be said for high school too. It's just something I think everyone needs to adjust to. Other countries in Europe have the right idea by gauging kids' interests in tests and apprenticeships instead of forcing an outdated curriculum. Amazing hub! I'm sharing it!

    • profile image

      cr00059n 5 years ago

      Interesting perspective. Once upon a time, I had these same questions popping up in my mind. Well, it takes time to adjust into college life and exceed well into the future. Nice interpretation of standards, requirements and futuristic values of college. Thanks for sharing. Giving you votes up for useful.

    • profile image

      Susan Eklund 5 years ago

      Wow, Kate - Good rant! I will say that they are thinking of your being a well rounded person. What I did to avoid this trap was to go non-traditional student and get lots of credit for 'prior learning' AKA life experience. I garnered about 40 credit hours that way, utilizing my work experience (5 years worth) and my performing experience. I was also encouraged to design some of my other coursework - got me out of taking Applied Bio! The English classes I took were an utter joy. I didn't have your scores! You'll probably love them too! Remember, college and life are the same in the respect that you only get out what you put in....(I know that grammar is awful, isn't it?) - but it is true from this side of a dual degree in performance! p.s. A very good friend once told me that most of us work to support our hobbies....