Even at a liberal arts college, we, as students, tend to be slightly compartmentalized. Science and math majors stick close to the GSC. English and journalism majors live in Humanities. You get the idea.
Interestingly, I’ve had several conversations lately that have led me to believe that this academic segregation might be more of a problem than we realize.
Yes, we have the Augustana Plan supposedly ensuring our well-rounded educations, but the amount of required classes outside of our majors does not diminish our fear of other disciplines.
That’s right. Fear.
As a writing tutor, I’ve seen people come in for help and preface their questions with self-deprecating remarks like “I’m a terrible writer,” or “I’m sorry you have to read this.”
My science-major friends tell me that fellow students often recoil and say things like “I don’t understand science at all” when they hear the word “lab.”
It’s perfectly normal to have specialized interests, of course. We choose our individual majors because (usually) they align with our specific skill sets. Most people, in fact, do not excel in every subject, but that’s the beauty of human nature: we can always continue to learn.
Just because I’m not great with numbers doesn’t mean I should give up on math entirely (even though I’d like to sometimes). It doesn’t help you at all to simply dismiss (fill in this blank with your least favorite subject) as a skill you’ll never need.
College is the perfect time to ask questions and try new things, and simply avoiding subjects you’re afraid of will not help you grow.
I don’t think this issue has an easy fix, but we can start by giving ourselves a little more credit. Don’t automatically discount your own abilities as a student. Don’t apologize for not understanding—ask questions until you do understand.
Most importantly, never limit your own learning by refusing to give a difficult subject a try.
We chose Augustana knowing that we would receive a liberal arts education, so we have no excuses for fearing other disciplines.
We may go to class in separate buildings, but it’s essential that we occasionally venture into unfamiliar academic territory in order to fill the holes in our own educations.
September Symens is a junior English and journalism major from Omaha, Neb.