Every so often, students ask me, “Why do we have to learn this?”
It’s no use telling them that learning is a good thing, period. They’re taking seven or eight classes. Some are doing “part-time” jobs that have them working thirty hours a week. Making out with their boyfriends is a good thing. Playing Mortal Kombat is a good thing. Reading a book or understanding “setting” is … required for some reason.
In an essay called “Live and Learn: Why We Have College,” Louis Menand reports that, soon after he started teaching at a public university, a student asked him, “Why did we have to read this book?” (a question he says he never got at his former, Ivy League, teaching job. This surprises me a little.) According to Menand, your answer to this question will depend on your view of university education.
Those who hold one view will say,
You are reading these books because you’re in college, and these are the kinds of books that people in college read.
For such people, a university degree is a signal that one has learned certain things, a useful tag for indicating that you know things that other people don’t, that you’ve read books that non-university people have not.
Those holding another view will say,
You’re reading these books because they teach you things about the world and yourself that, if you do not learn them in college, you are unlikely to learn anywhere else.
This view holds that
people will, given a choice, learn only what they need to know for success. They will have no incentive to acquire the knowledge and skills important for life as an informed citizen, or as a reflective and culturally literate human being. College exposes future citizens to material that enlightens and empowers them, whatever careers they end up choosing.
That is to say: because you’re in college, you have a chance to do things that are valuable, but that won’t necessarily earn you a big salary or help you land a client. So read this book that I say will improve you.
If you believe that college is a threshing machine, separating wheat from chaff (Theory 1), then grades, at least passing ones, are what matters, so that when you graduate, you will be seen as wheat, not chaff, in the larger world. If you believe that college is a place to accumulate knowledge that will serve you in all aspects of your life and self, (Theory 2), then learning is what matters, regardless of the grades attached to it.
These theories are not compatible. Learning requires risks, frustrations, even failures. “Good grades,” more often than not, require a lot of memorization, or at least an understanding of what the teacher wants and a willingness to try to produce it. A desire for good grades can be detrimental to actual learning.
As Menard points out, though, our colleges and universities (and, I would add, our schools, from first grade forward) seem to operate as though BOTH theories were true. We tell our students that learning is what matters, that we are teaching them to think critically, that they will be better, fuller people because they went to college. And then we teach them that a bad grade is, well, bad. Sometimes we even get angry with them because they fail a test or misunderstand an assignment.
To complicate matters, Menand claims that these two theories really only address education of the liberal arts variety. Most college students, on the other hand, are not majoring in humanities of any kind: the most popular major in the US is business, followed by education and the health professions. For these students, Menand writes, university is about neither grades as a sorting tool nor learning for its own sake.
The theory that fits their situation—Theory 3—is that advanced economies demand specialized knowledge and skills, and, since high school is aimed at the general learner, college is where people can be taught what they need in order to enter a vocation…
Nevertheless, he points out, students in these programs are almost always required to take courses in English and other humanities. This is where many – perhaps most – of the students in my English classes find themselves. Everyone must take four English courses, regardless of their program. There is no literature major at my college; the closest we have are programs in communications (subtitle: art, media, theatre) and in modern languages, along with a very small liberal arts cohort. Most of my students are in science, social science, or professional programs. Science students are usually strong students, and sometimes they care about learning things, but their bent is often toward getting into medical school or engineering programs in university (Theory 1). Social science students, especially those without specialized majors, frequently have no idea what they want to do and had poor high school grades, making them ineligible for more rigorous programs (Theory? What theory?) And students in industrial electronics or office systems technology or nursing are likely to tell me that they can see the point of learning grammar or maybe even how to structure an essay, but reading Death of a Salesman is of no use to them whatever (Theory 3).
And really, are they wrong? The fact is, unless I or another English teacher sparks something in them that gives Death of a Salesman meaning, it will forever remain a dead pile of alphabet on the page for them (or maybe it will forever remain the image of John Malkovich, as Biff, dripping from all his facial orifices as he weeps, a scene students find both disgusting and hilarious.)
Our vision of “college” is hopelessly outdated. Throughout his essay, Menand outlines the same historical trajectory that Alan Jacob does: the broadening of the university student population since the days when a college education was reserved for the upper classes. By the 1980s, universities were full of people of all different cultural, educational, gender and economic backgrounds, many of whom could never have gone to college in the pre-war era.
These students did not regard college as a finishing school or a ticket punch. There was much more at stake for them …. For these groups, college was central to the experience of making it—not only financially but socially and personally. They were finally getting a bite at the apple. College was supposed to be hard. Its difficulty was a token of its transformational powers. This is why “Why did we have to buy this book?” [is] such a great question. The student who asked it was not complaining. He was trying to understand how the magic worked.
Menand is describing a Theory 1 response that he feels has all but disappeared: going to college makes me important and special. I know that some of my students still feel this; they may have recently arrived in Canada from a place where a university education was impossible for them, or they may come from a family where they are the first to have graduated from high school.
Most, however are NOT trying to understand some magic external to themselves. When my students ask, “Why do I have to learn this?”, they are trying to make sense of a system that seems arbitrary, full of hoops to jump through and dead-end labyrinths. They truly do not understand why they have to do all these things we’re asking them to do. What does this have to do with my career, or my life? they ask.
Maybe it’s never been explained to them, but more likely, it’s been explained to them over and over, and they just. Don’t. Buy it. And why not? Because it’s MY theory, MY reasoning, MY agenda, and I have not even taken a second to ask what their agendas are.
Is it possible for us to take the question “Why do I have to learn this?” seriously? Because it is a serious question. We often moan about how students no longer want to learn for the sake of learning, but we need to think about what we’re saying. “Learning for its own sake” is an incredibly privileged activity, one that requires time, money, and the luxury of wandering along a wide, brachiated path into the future. Most students do not have these privileges; they need to see their school and homework hours as useful. If I can’t convince them that the definition of “useful” is bigger than the definition we’ve taught them until now, then a passing grade with be their only incentive.
“Why do I have to read/think about/know this?” is a place at which education can begin, if we answer the question authentically, or, even better, if we ask them to answer it for us. If we show interest in their theories, they might become curious about ours, and together, we might be able to make some learning happen.
Image by Bjorn Snelders
39 thoughts on “Why Do I Have to Learn This?”
Wow. You’ve got me thinking so many things. I yearn for the days when learning was valued for learning sake, but at the same time I empathize with the students who want to learn just what they need to know to land the job. The problem, though, is that we have created a system that will ultimately fail, because if we do just teach what they “need to know” then eventually nothing new will be created. The academic system is broken, but fixing it will not be easy.
Lisa: This is the thing – there is a theory that Menand doesn’t mention, and I should have described it (or maybe I will address it in another post.) Theory 4: Knowing HOW TO LEARN is the most important knowledge at all. If we espouse this theory, though, all our school activities, whether we are teachers or students, need to be aimed at this skill. How will reading this book help me be a better learner? How will teaching you these formulas help you learn all the formulas you will need in the future? If school teaches us this, then nothing the world throws at us will be insurmountable.
So very true. And now you need to write that post and the book that goes with it. 😉
Yes, this is my ultimate goal as a teacher- how to bypass the pouring-info-into-their-head method for a student-centered method that doesn’t involve me giving too much of my time or them feeling frustrated. It’s an artful balance especially in English classes where the curriculum, goals, and possibilities are so wide open.
Emily: Oh, the time. I am staring at a pile of quizzes right now. I think I structured these quizzes in a way that teaches them important learning skills. And now I have to grade them. Sigh.
Interesting. It is important to remember that students have different purposes for being in college and it is natural for them to question the process. I’d like to add one more take, though. Sometimes “Why are we reading this?” can indicate a desire for deeper knowledge. I know I had college classes myself in which I looked at certain reading material and thought “Is this really germane to the topic of this class?” or “Isn’t this a bit too simplistic or too similar to material we’ve already gone over? Can’t we get deeper into this subject?” Even those who “learn for the sake of learning” might find themselves questioning the value of course material.
Osozereposo: This is an interesting point. What’s more, in Quebec over the past few years there has been an educational reform in which, ideally, students are given much more information in primary and high school about the “objectives” and “competencies” that they are supposed to achieve. This semester, for the first time in my memory, a student asked, “What is the learning objective of this exercise?” I was pretty impressed – and fortunately, I had thought the objective through pretty clearly, and was able to answer her!
As a person who has limited college and university experience, I found the line of thought around learning things in college because you will not learn them anywhere else interesting. I have found, now that I have children in university, that there is some validity in that. It is not that I am not curious but seeing what my children are learning – and reading some of their texts or other material – has pointed me to areas that I otherwise would not have followed. It’s not that I cannot learn or did not know to look for the information, but a prescribed and thought out process guides learning in a way that walking through the aisles of the library picking out books cannot. When proof reading my daughter’s papers, for example, I have become interested in a wide variety of topics that simply would not have crossed my radar in my day-to-day, making a living, raising children kind of life.
I have often regretted not completing my university degree, but for the simple reason that I felt that somehow made a difference in how people saw me. I now have come to the realization that the regret should come from an understanding that an education at that level does not only teach you how to learn, but allows you to learn.
This is a very interesting response.
I am doing an MEd at the moment, and at times I get frustrated. Why am I taking these courses? I wonder. Why am I currently, for example, subjecting myself to writing a massive and time-consuming literature review on a subject that I am only marginally interested in, when I have a whole network of people who can recommend books on education to me, and I am perfectly happy trolling around the internet reading articles like Menand’s?
The reason is exactly the one you point out. In school, teachers can give me material and ideas that I wouldn’t come across if I just followed my inclinations.
On the other hand, I, and you by the sounds of it, are people who value learning because learning is interesting and fun. If learning were difficult for us, or if our main concern was furthering our career, we might see things differently.
….”if learning were difficult for us…” resonates as I work in special education. The students I work with often do have significant difficulties and hence frustrations. This year, I am truly blessed to work with a student who loves to learn, loves to come to school, and although she has felt frustration, she just takes her moment and then we move on. That’s what makes showing up for work worthwhile!
Paula: I often love working with college students with learning disabilities, especially when they have been diagnosed and have support. They often know a LOT about their own learning processes and about how to deal with their roadblocks. They know what questions to ask! I find that they know more about HOW to learn than the average student does.
“If we show interest in their theories, they might become curious about ours, and together, we might be able to make some learning happen.” That is a great point. Back when I was a high school student, I never felt like the teachers were interested in my theories. In fact, I didn’t even have theories to begin with because I was too focused on cramming all the time. I think if high school teachers were more interested in the students’ theories, the students would automatically feel inclined to ask questions. And I believe that’s when learning starts – when you ask smart questions.
As always, Great post Siobhan! I love reading your blog.
“In fact, I didn’t even have theories to begin with because I was too focused on cramming all the time.” Herein lies a big part of the problem. Students and teachers are so busy imparting and receiving information that real learning, and questions about real learning, get lost. There’s a lot of rethinking to be done about how school functions.
Teaching science, I have to admit that I rarely get that question. And though I know its not entirely the point of the article, I can’t help but be curious what your response is when a student asks the question in your class?
Robin: My response depends on the activity we’re doing. Sometimes they have to learn it because a provinical exam requires them to demonstrate the skill later. Sometimes it’s because it will make them a better communicator. Sometimes it’s because it’s something they can apply it to their lives – understanding techniques an author uses in a novel can help them understand the techniques an advertiser uses to get them to buy something. But the answers that seem to resonate with them most tend to be about their grades, their future at university, or their career. I’m not sure how to help them think outside those boxes, and often I think that they simply don’t have time to – at college they have so many things to do that they have to focus their energies on things that have a clear practical result.
Wonderful post. Students frustration and/or questioning what they have to learn truly is an area of education we do not take seriously enough. Here are my thoughts…
There are two types of learning:
1. Learning just for learning-By far the most enjoyable learning because we choose what we learn, how we learn it, and how much we want to learn. I witnessed this type of learning when my son declared one day he wanted to play electric guitar. Nine years later and self-taught, he has been a member of five bands, toured the US and Europe extensively, had music recorded and distributed, and was signed to a label.
This is inherent in people, just some more than others. We all desire to learn, we differ in WHAT we want to learn, and HOW MUCH of it we learn.
2. Learning to achieve a result-Within this type of learning there are two subcategories:
a. Non-forced learning-this is when we choose to learn something in order to accomplish a goal. Not wanting to spend the money on a plumber for what appeared to be a simple fix to my toilet, I bought a book at Home Depot, studied it, replaced the parts and Wah-Lah, my comode works again. Haven’t picked up the book again because I only desired to learn just enough to accomplish my goal.
b. Forced learning-this is having to learn something in which you see no application to career, life, or otherwise. This is where we hear the question, “Why do we have to know this?, and is the realm that “formal education” lives. This is also about 90% of high school, and probably 30-40% of college.
I don’t know what the answer is, but I do know now that I’ve reach the halfway point of my life, I wish I had the time back (hours, days, months, years) I devoted to learning subject matter, and completing projects, papers, problems, and tasks that I have since realized served me no purpose other than to attain my diploma, or degree.
By the way, as a teacher, I constantly ask “Why do I have to teach this?”
Another by the way, people “turn on” and “turn off” to learning. A current buzz word in education is “engaged” or “not engaged”. There is a myth in education that teachers control this. Totally false. And, unfortunately this has led to silly, trendy techniques designed to “trick” a student into engaging in the learning process, which hasn’t helped because when all is said and done, learning is up to the learner…period.
Unheardof: “By the way, as a teacher, I constantly ask ‘Why do I have to teach this?'”
Me too. My latest beef: Why do I have to teach literary analysis to students who will not read the books and don’t see the relevance of literary analysis no matter how I try to explain it to them? The answer to this question may be the subject of my MEd thesis…
Thanks so much for all your thoughts on this – we are on the same page where a lot of these things are concerned. I especially like your plumbing example; I learn all sorts of basic technological skills for the same reasons.
My sympathies. I teach Art & Design to college non-Art & Design-majors. Why? Because the accreditation team says we have to offer it, and freshmen have to take it. Who is on the accreditation team? A bunch of old retired professors who haven’t stepped into the 21st century yet.
Why do I teach it? Because I’m low man on the totem pole, and everybody else hates teaching it.
I use a good dose of humor, a “we’re all in this together, so let’s make this enjoyable” method to the class. It works well, but I can still see the frustration in their eyes, and I don’t blame them, especially at the prices their paying for their college classes.
Unheardof: thank you for pointing out the role of student responsibility in being “engaged” in learning. Understanding when students are and are not engaged has helped me to be a better teacher, but the greatest tool I have in my teaching are students who are making a conscious choice to learn. When they make that choice, it frees me up from focusing my energies on motivating them to focusing my energies on helping to figure out what may be causing them to stumble over the things I am trying to teach them.
That said, I have found that many times students have difficulty being engaged in learning because of outside factors–like being overwhelmed with the tasks set for them (that feeling of “I have more to do than I can accomplish in the time I have” can derail a student’s–or teacher’s–focus). If I can identify or help the student identify the factor that is getting in the way, we can make much more headway!
As the first in my family to go to college, I felt that sense of privilege to be there. After a year or two, I realized that I needed a leap of faith to trust that the profs were taking me somewhere worth going (or at least, that I could find a path of my own inside their direction). By my fourth year I was far more cynical and questioning about every direction I was being given. When I graduated, I realized that this, too, was part of what I was being taught. I have no doubt the model for college must change, but I also have no doubt that I benefited greatly (personally and professionally) from the education I received.
This perspective – a sense of gratitude in addition to a healthy critical eye – is one I wish more of my students had!
I think it is a very relevant question, when asked with the intent of receiving an answer. When this question is asked, and then the ‘asker’ turns off their brains to receiving and processing the reasoning of, and point of view of, the responder- this is when it loses its power. It is most definitely a question the best teachers, well ALL teachers should ask themselves every day. Especially when assigning homework! I have really been examining any assignment I give lately, thinking clearly about my intent. Because truly, my students deserve this. Their time for learning is important whether it is directed from me or from their own explorations.
I do know that my husband is the clear example of the type who can create their own purpose for learning on a daily basis- and seek out the knowledge. Somewhere, students like this who do not want to participate in formal education need to possess this skill- this desire.
The desire to “create their own purpose for learning on a daily basis- and seek out the knowledge” is, ideally, something we would instill our own students – I only wish I knew how we could instill it. Do you think we are born with this? Can it be taught?
Well, yes… but let’s acknowledge the obvious: too often, no answer could possibly satisfy the student, who regards the entire experience of education to be an unwarranted imposition on his/her valuable time.
We don’t always get our subtext spelled out for us, but I remember getting it from an algebra student, who asked the question more fully: “Why do I have to learn this? All I’ll ever need to figure out is how to balance my checkbook, or how much wallpaper to buy.”
Correct answer: “Then you don’t need to be in college.”
James. Maybe. Or perhaps…”Then you don’t need to be in algebra class”?
We may not be able to satisfy a particular student with our answers, but I think we need to have them, and be able to produce them. More importantly, I think we need to meet such a question without defensiveness. If he truly believes that algebra is useless to him, then he’s probably overlooking something. But there is always the possibility that he is right, maybe for reasons that we’ve never even considered.
I’ve often found that having class discussions in which STUDENTS tell me, “Why do you have to study English literature in college?” are very interesting. Of course some of them are just saying things they think I want to hear, but you can see that they’re giving others things to think about.
The problem with “why do I have to learn this algebra?” (and the funny thing is that, as an English teacher, I find myself answering this question about algebra as often as about English) is that it reveals a belief that all learning is segregated rather than integrated. I found that understanding algebra has made me aware of abstract relationships in other areas, particularly literature. Learning algebra, learning geometry, learning literary structure, learning chemistry–all of these teach us how to think in different ways.
Of course, as SoulStrikers pointed out, students who ask this question often turn off their brains to the answer. Some may truly want to know the answer, but the answer often does not make sense to them until AFTER they have learned the material. I have begun, when I realize that no answer is the right answer for a student, to tell the student that he may ask the question of me after he has learned the material . . . if he still has the question. This has helped me soooo much! First of all, it puts the ball in the student’s court (I do try to explain the purpose of the learning, but my explanations are usually less effective than when the student figures it out on his own or figures part of it out) to try to be on the lookout for the answer. Second, it is a quiet assertion of my belief that there is value in what I have to teach–if it were not valuable, I would not ask the student to learn it (that is my unwritten contract with the student). Third, when the student asks again at the end of the assignment, he usually really wants to know the answer and is not merely looking for an excuse to get out of the work. Discussions of purpose go much better at that end than they do at the beginning. Finally, some things cannot be told but must be shown. There are things that I cannot explain to my students, reasons that do not make any sense to them no matter how hard I try to explain them (and I try very hard!). These things won’t make any sense to the students until the students have the knowledge of the subject that they need. And some may not make sense to them until many years later [a friend of mine told me that she never understood English until she was an adult taking sign-language classes–that’s when the light-bbulb came on for her, but at least she’d had some background in English, at least there was a light-bulb to turn on!].
“‘Learning for its own sake’ is an incredibly privileged activity, one that requires time, money, and the luxury of wandering along a wide, brachiated path into the future.”
Up to a point I agree, but only so far as it depends on a society which itself depends on money, a society in which ‘value’ has been covertly replaced by ‘price’. This is the reason why many people are taking college courses and holding down jobs too. As long as the free market rules and is governed by the ‘law’ of supply and demand, and as long as economic and political power devolve upwards into the hands of a few, time and money will be scarce commodities for 99% of students.
Now, don’t suppose that because I am dumping the blame for this situation on capitalism that the next thing I am going to trot out is a whole lot of Marxist dogma. Except for his initial analysis of capitalism and his identification of the problem that the bulk of ordinary working people have their labour stolen by the wealthy and powerful few, I have little time for him. Marxism gave us the corporate state. Whereas the rules of capitalism said that if there were ten people on a riverbank and one boat moored nearby, they had to fight until one of them got the boat, the rules of Marxism said they all had to get into the boat at once, even if it sunk.
What is needed is a simplification of society somewhat along the lines of what many non-political Greens postulate. The ‘price’ of work would have to go, along with the thing that dictates that is should have a price – money – to be replaced by the social value of work, the principle that work, when done for free, has a social, pay-it-forward benefit; if someone makes shoes everyone will eat, if someone bakes bread everyone will be shod. This is a very simplistic way of putting it, but there isn’t time to hi-jack your thread with a full-blown book of political philosophy.
Along with the above, political power would be devolved downwards to the lowest possible level – small, local, free assemblies, dealing with matters that the ‘least’ of us would be competent to make decisions about. Property would be held communally (this does not mean that there would be no ‘personal’ possessions, just there would be no need for ‘private’ property). The only overall rule would be that each community would co-operate with the next, in the loosest of confederations. Any decisions which had to be taken on a wider regional basis would be done so by delegates, chosen to take the each community’s decision to a delegate assembly; this delegate assembly will only sit for the purpose of making the overall decision and then it will dissolve, ensuring that political power does not devolve upwards…
I’ll cut this short. In such a society, work would be simpler, because we would not be busting our backsides making ‘neat stuff’ or peddling fresh air just to make some guy in a suit richer than he already is. Socially useful work would be shared out, we would have time for democracy, for the community assemblies, and also time to become singers, musicians, artists, poets, and – yes – learners.
It would take a revolution of some sort, hopefully a peaceful one (although can you see the people of power and influence giving it all up without a fight – Thomas Jefferson said “We are not to expect to be translated from despotism to liberty in a featherbed”). Up to now all revolutions have failed – the English Revolution in the 17c, the American and French Revolutions in the 18c, the Paris Commune in the 19c, the Russian and Spanish Revolutions in the 20c – either because people did not push them though to their logical conclusion, or because of ‘force majeur’, or because of subversion by a power clique. But as we are heading for economic, social, and ecological disaster worldwide (oh yes we are!) we had better grasp this nettle.
What I have said above is, I agree, simplistic. This isn’t the place for a detailed exposition. But what I am trying to say is this: It doesn’t have to be that way; money and leisure should not have to and do not have to over-ride learning for its own sake, learning for its own sake does not have to be an unaffordable luxury. We are told that our ancestors lost their tails because they didn’t use them – do we wish our descendants to suffer a similar atrophy of the brain?
Thank you for such a stimulating post.
Marie: and thank you for your stimulating response!
You’re welcome. I guess you got the rough end of my logorrhoea yesterday! 🙂
Marie: your comment WAS very stimulating, but it was so stimulating that I had to take my thoughts to my own blog =) You can see what part got me thinking (and what I quoted you on–such a great quote! I’ll have to use it in my econ class sometime!) here: http://joyousthirst.wordpress.com/2011/11/12/capitalism-vs-marxism-or-the-story-of-a-boat/
At the university or community college level, sometimes the answer is, “You don’t have to. You can choose a course of study that avoids (fill in the blank: analyzing literature, reading this specific book, learning Trigonometry, speaking a foreign language, basketweaving, etc. . . ).” If not totally avoids, then holds to a minimum — as, engineering students who take very few courses that involve analyzing literature, or HVAC students who don’t have to learn a foreign language.
I would add, too, that some of these requirements, being holdovers from the time when mainly middle and upper class people attended university, will probably erode over time as the requirements for learning Latin and Greek have. Others are seeing a change in the content — for example, Ehglish classes that are encompassing far more popular novels, film, graphic novels, etc.
At the high school level, this question is harder to answer. Sometimes it feels more like a declaration to me than a question. Students are simply saying, “An awful lot of this is hard for me to engage with.”
EB: Yes, one of the roots of this problem for me is that all students at my college are required to take English courses, and in those courses we are required to teach them certain things that they don’t necessarily see the value of. I think the fundamental question is: have I, as their teacher, thought carefully about what value these activities have for them? Do I think that they really do need to do them? If so, how can I help them see things in that light? If not, what can I do to address that problem?
“Sometimes it feels more like a declaration to me than a question. Students are simply saying, ‘An awful lot of this is hard for me to engage with.'”
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I think part of the issue is that the actual learning becomes secondary (for some people) to getting good grades. I remember sitting in a 500 level sociology course with the same people I had sat in a 200 level courses with and seeing them gradually take on the look of someone who just jumped out an airplane and realized they left their parachute on the hood of their car. A very common exchange was:
“Professor is this going to be on the exam?”
“Maybe. Anything that we talked about is fair game. Just defend your arguments and you’ll be fine.”
“Yes, okay but still can you just tell us what we need to know for the exam?”
“I just did.”
In the headlong rush to get good grades (because that’s what good students are supposed to do), the concept of coming up with original arguments is not even an option. In the lower level courses the PowerPoint slides and online notes made it easy. Memorize and you get an A. In the higher/graduate level classes you had to step out on your own and take a risk. In all honesty, I liked the graduate level classes better than the undergrad classes.
I think you are spot on, Christopher.
I agree, Christopher – I’m not sure whether you’ve read this earlier post, but it discusses this problem directly:
Thanks for tackling this question! Like you, I’m not sure I have a definitive answer, but it seems the first step is to acknowledge the question’s legitimacy, rather than disdainfully quip, “Because you have to.”
P.S.: My 12th graders had the same reaction to Malkovich’s weeping as Biff Loman.
College degrees require a specific number of credit hours. I am working on my second associate degree. An associate in North Carolina requires 60 to 64 credit hours.
My first degree I didn’t have many what I would consider useless classes. All the core classes had relevance to the degree. However with my second degree it seems the state had to pad the class requirements to fulfill the required number of credit hours. All my gen ed classes were met during my first degree.Gen ed classes I can agree with. I am attending full time and still looking at needing 5 semesters to complete the requirements. Many of the classes I have taken seem useless. They really don’t apply to the work I am seeking to qualify for. Filler classes that are not relevant just to get the required number of credits is wasting my time and money. I have had two classes that were very basic then later taken advanced classes covering the same subject material. All four classes are required. The basic classes were of no benefit to me. I could have jumped straight into the more advanced classes with no problem. We need to take a hard look at some of these degrees and cut the fluff out of them. If you can get the gen ed and core classes in 45 or 50 credit hours then that’s what it needs to be.