Students resist a lot of things.
Getting out of bed. Homework. Intervisitation hours. Doing laundry (please, for the sake of the rest of us, do it). The Commons’ grilled cheese.
And maybe a little less obviously, students resist taking classes that we deem “valueless.”
I’m currently enrolled in a Civitas Pertinence class. Because the class has a biology emphasis and a lab time, I thought, “Let’s get the most out of this. I can use it for my Civitas class as well as my lab credit, and then I can cross them both off my list.”
However, there was some confusion as to exactly what the class could count for. And when I started to believe that my Civitas class wasn’t going to count as my lab credit, it caused some major stress whilst I tried to figure out how to maximize my class schedule. I like to make things count for as much as they can, and double credit for that class – lab and Civitas – would have been incredible.
I’m loving the class. It’s right up my alley. I find the information interesting, the homework doable, and I enjoy attending. And when I thought, even for a day, that it wouldn’t cover my lab credit, I immediately regretted taking the class.
But… why? Am I loving it? Yes. Am I learning so much? Absolutely. Am I still getting Civitas credit for it? You bet. Am I exposing myself to new ideas and forcing my brain out of its natural ways of operating, challenging myself by upsetting the status quo inside my head and rising to the call of a liberal arts college? Truly, I am. So why should I feel so awful about taking a class just because it’s not my lab credit?
Mostly, because I don’t want to have to take biology or chemistry, but also because I didn’t feel I could justify taking it just because I was enjoying it. Nothing is deemed “valuable” (I use the term loosely) unless we decide to put some sort of extrinsic value on it: a credit price tag, if you will. I can’t take a class simply to enjoy it; it has to have extrinsic value. I cannot take the class simply because I am learning something; I must be learning the right thing, something that will count toward my major or help me graduate in four years.
Really, how “liberal” is our education? Because we attend a school that requires us to take classes from different disciplines, are we truly exposing ourselves to new ideas and opinions? Or are we trapped into a little mold, frantically trying to wild card subjects and to squeeze as much credit as possible out of each class we’re forced to take so that we can get on with it and learn the things that we can justify as “worthwhile” or “valuable” because it will count toward our major or generals? And if we are, what can we do about it?
Turn the tables. Make value something intrinsic. After all, this is your education. So if you want to, and you have room for it in your schedule, take a class that interests you simply because it interests you. I dare you. Because ultimately, worth is something you get to decide.