There are two approaches when people contemplate pursuing a college education: the practical path and the intellectual path. The first speaks for itself; we go to college in order to earn a degree and hopes of landing that stable job. The latter, though more optimistic, has still managed to become institutionalized within our society; college is the time to discover our passions and work towards pursuing them. I use the term “institutionalized” to emphasize the fact that we go to college hoping to find ourselves when in reality, it’s an idea that has become embedded in our minds.
I came to college hoping to immerse myself in the two subjects I’m passionate about: writing and politics. However, I now find myself losing the curiosity I started off with as a result of the system in which I have been confined. After listening to several commencement speeches and testimonies from former college students, I noticed a trend.
Almost all of them said that most of what we learn in college is forgotten once we leave. If so, then why aren’t we doing anything about that? Why must we spend thousands of dollars on knowledge that most likely will not come up in our lives again? Some scholars have argued that college is about learning how to think rather than the content we learn in class, but is that reason enough to rationalize the price tag of a college education?
The intended purpose of the system of general education, as stated by Harvard College, is to “ensure that their undergraduate education encompasses a broad range of topics and approaches.”
This is an excellent idea, but unfortunately its practice has not been as ideal. College students now spend more time and money than ever before on obtaining their degrees and that’s partly because of the general education requirements that soak up so much of their time. The idea of passing a class has become more valuable than the idea of having learned from it. The blood, sweat and tears that have gone towards excelling in these classes have cost many students their health and savings. Of course, there are those who have left college with positive experiences and that in itself deserves a round-of-applause. I’m thankful for everyday that I get to go to class, but I often find myself questioning the validity of my education. College degrees used to encourage high levels of respect, but they’re now viewed merely as requirements that may or may not guarantee us stable careers.
Looking back, there’s no doubt in my mind that college has been the highlight of my life thus far. This has been, in part, because of the friends I’ve made and the experiences I’ve had outside of class. However, in terms of academia, my thirst for knowledge is a mere shadow of its former self as the only thing that gets me through my days is my hope that the next will be more fulfilling. College is a time of promise and opportunity, but what choice do we have in the matter of our success if the very system that means to help us could very well be the root of our failure?