SU’s core liberal arts curriculum feels forced and does not benefit students

For a student enrolled in Syracuse University‘s College of Arts and Sciences, including the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, and for those dual in Arts and Sciences and the Newhouse School of Public Communications or the School of Education are enrolled, a staple of their college education is the Liberal Arts Core. The Liberal Arts Core seeks to introduce students to a variety of subjects and perspectives, and to create well-rounded students with a foundational knowledge of a range of disciplines. In my own SU experience, I have found that parts of the curriculum are not conducive to my development as a student.

The Liberal Arts Core Curriculum is divided into four sections, each dedicated to expanding students’ educational and intellectual abilities. The Liberal Skills Requirement consists of WRT 105 and 205, an intensive written course and a language or quantitative skills course. The Divisional Perspectives Requirement is the largest section with four courses in each of the three Arts and Sciences curriculum divisions and a required sequence (two grades within the same field of study).

The Critical Reflections on Ethical and Social Issues requirement contains three courses designed to encourage students to think critically about social and ethical issues. Finally, the IDEA requirement consists of two courses that promote the concepts of inclusion, diversity, equity and accessibility.

When I decided to come to SU, I was excited to go to a school that I thought would allow me to just focus on my major and the subjects that interest me. I had purposely avoided small liberal arts colleges, fearing I would be forced to take classes on things I didn’t care about. Maybe it was my lack of research, but I was very disappointed when I arrived at SU and found out about the Liberal Arts Core.

As a political science major, I was terrified of doing science majors, a subject I dropped out of high school and figured I’d never have to do it again. I am most dissatisfied at the SU when I take science lectures, like this semester. I hate going to class, I put off homework until the last minute and feel unmotivated to study for tests and exams.

It’s not because of the people who teach me, but because of my total disregard for what I’m learning. I feel these courses have no real value in my life and career outside of SU.

I was also extremely dissatisfied with the writing courses I took at SU. Again, I find that these courses don’t offer any unique or exciting knowledge on how to improve, but rather lengthy projects and research that make me less excited about writing. I have found more joy in writing term papers in law and political science classes than in the required writing classes.

Of course there are aspects of the Liberal Arts Core that are essential. It is of course important that students take courses for their major and degree. It is important that students learn about social and ethical issues, as well as inclusion, diversity, equity and accessibility. These are concepts and skills that students will find useful throughout their lives and careers, no matter what field they are in. But forcing students to take courses that don’t serve them, that will never be used in their careers and only make them miserable, is not beneficial to either the students or the professors who teach them.

By forcing students to take courses they don’t want to take, SU wastes not only students’ time, but professors’ time as well. Professors who are experts in their fields and passionate about their work and their field want to teach students who share that passion. Instead, professors and teaching assistants can teach students who are bored, unmotivated, and uninterested in the subject matter.

Students will not then move to a class they do not wish to be in. In our first lab of the semester, my science TA told me he didn’t want to ask us why we were taking the class because he knew our answers would all be the same: It’s a requirement. I can’t imagine it being enlightening or enriching for professors and TAs to teach students who would rather be somewhere else. If anything, it could be just as difficult for them as it is for the students.

For many students, high school offered the opportunity for a comprehensive education. The four-year course in several different subjects is designed to help narrow your interests so you can focus on them in college. When they need to continue this type of curriculum in college, many SU students wait until their junior year to take courses they enjoy because they were previously too busy to finish their liberal arts core.

This method of education is unfair to students who are ready and willing to learn about their broad subject or niche interests early in their college education. While interdisciplinary education is important, SU should conduct it in a way that allows students the freedom to explore subject areas they want to study, rather than those they feel compelled to explore.

Hannah Starorypinski is a sophomore in Political Science majoring with a minor in Public Communications. Her column appears bi-weekly and can be reached at [email protected].

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