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BG Falcon Media

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April 11, 2024

  • Jeanette Winterson for “gAyPRIL”
    “gAyPRIL” (Gay-April) continues on Falcon Radio, sharing a playlist curated by the Queer Trans Student Union, sharing songs celebrating the LGBTQ+ experience. In similar vein, you will enjoy Jeanette Winterson’s books if you find yourself interested in LGBTQ+ voices and nonlinear narratives. As “dead week” is upon us, students, we can utilize resources such as Falcon […]
  • Poetics of April
    As we enter into the poetics of April, also known as national poetry month, here are four voices from well to lesser known. The Tradition – Jericho Brown Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Brown visited the last American Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP 2024) conference, and I loved his speech and humor. Besides […]
Spring Housing Guide

Studying so I can earn the big books

When was the last time you thought about who was in charge of your education? The last time you really sat down to consider who decides which classes you have to take?

I’m not talking about your advisor, not even your college dean, but your university itself.

Every semester it seems like people have to take classes that normally they would never have considered. A biology major has to take Russian literature, a computer science student has to take English 112 and a psychology major has to take a foreign language. Seriously, what’s this all about?

Some would argue the drive towards a “liberal” education finds foundation in the classical world. Liberal, of course, comes from the Latin adjective liberalis, meaning ‘becoming or suitable for freedman, noble’ according to Cassell’s Latin-English dictionary.

What was a liberal education back then? Nobility training. The only opposing type of schooling available was called the servile arts, which training provided a heavy emphasis on tradesmanship.

But whom are we kidding? The ancient Romans lived a few millennia back. Surely nobility has been done away with.

But if so, why is the tradition of a ‘liberal’ education still carried on today?

If you are asking yourself this question, you are not alone. In fact, most consumers of education around the country are asking the very same question: Why?

From a market standpoint, liberal education is a bad move. Why on Earth would you study things that do not contribute to your job? How does a marketing major make more money by learning about Catholics in China?

The opposing side suggests a liberal education has the power to make better people. The thought is that learning about ethics, chemistry and punctuation not only helps the person learning these things, but also everyone who will ever come into contact with the student.

In short, proponents suggest everyone benefits from liberal education, not just the recipient. When people learn a variety of subjects, they tend to talk about a variety of subjects, benefiting most people they talk to.

That’s fine and dandy, but where does a university come in? Does the University get to decide what type of education you receive? Or do you?

Thus, the current conflict between universities and the market forces nationwide: Should we listen to consumer demands, or should we provide the sort of education that we would prefer? To put it another way, should a university teach based on consumer preferences?

The financial obligations of a university as a business are becoming increasingly real, especially for schools like BGSU where state funding is in a noticeable decline. According to the University’s Office of Budgeting, the state has gone from funding over 60 percent of BGSU’s budget in 2001 to below 30 percent in 2007.

Let’s connect the dots, shall we? If the state is funding the University less and less, then – ceteris paribus – the students start funding the University more and more. Because it’s students who are being taught, and have the money, what seems likely for a university to do?

If you answered: “Give the students what they want!” You might be correct.

As an analogy, what would McDonalds do? Would it purposefully sell a sandwich people won’t eat? No, because that’s not what consumers want.

Consumers (read: students) have massive power in the university/market system. What do students want? Easier courses and job training. If you don’t believe me, look around.

So, if students want easier courses, and they finance the University, what do you think the University is likely to do in response?

“Is it a good thing that the market has a big influence on university curricula?” Again, the body of students who would prefer job training at a university – which is most of them – would say, “Yes!”

But what of the rest of us? And what of those supposed benefits of a liberal education?

Well, sometimes it’s hard to see the benefit in things we don’t want to do. When I go through the food lines at the Union, it is very hard to walk past Zza’s in favor of the salad bar.

Education is one of the most difficult, yet rewarding, ventures for a human being, and the benefits of liberal education only magnify its worth.

What is missing in the economic argument against liberal education is the fact human beings are people outside of their careers. Surely I am not just a columnist I am also a student, a citizen, a son, a friend and sometimes a lover.

People go to parties, people vote, from time to time they must impress others and from time to time they get into arguments. In all of these spheres of existence, education can prove a valuable ally.

And thus we arrive at a key point: Job training is for the good of your career, which is but one facet of yourself. However, liberal education is for the good of your soul.

Consider this the next time you struggle with this difficult Great Ideas course, or that really difficult English 110 course: How this is helping “me” the human being, not just my career.

Send comments to Chad at [email protected]

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