Turning the College Curriculum Upside Down

It’s ironic that in most universities, students take many of their core liberal-arts requirements (that are designed for mature minds) during the years in which they are the least mature. Michael Mendillo, professor of astronomy at Boston University, expresses this point in the conclusion of his Chronicle article:

Ultimately, colleges should be developing ways to have general-education goals met not at the onset of college, when incoming freshmen have the mind-set of ninth-semester high-school students, but in upper-class years when students have more of a foundation upon which to experience and to contribute to the breadth of their own education.

Such a change would be revolutionary. I’d even go a step further. Imagine giving students who are seeking more vocational majors (e.g. accounting, nursing, etc.) the option of a two-year degree that just focuses on that major. Many of these students sleep through their core courses because they just want a workforce-readiness certificate.   

Then, for those who decide that they desire “liberal learning,” I’d provide an option to take the core curriculum in their junior and senior years in order to earn a four-year degree. At that point, those students will be more mature and, as an added bonus, they may only be enrolling in that course of study because they, gasp, want to learn. 

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