False perceptions

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March 29, 2012

11:10 PM

As the mass movement of stalking Banner in order to add and drop courses begins again, one thing is clear: Students at the College of William and Mary are eager to register for classes. For many students, the faculty and course offerings are what differentiate the College from other universities during the application process. The College consistently must attempt to offer the best selection of classes that will prepare students for their future studies and careers, and in order to do so, the faculty and administration must evaluate ways to improve the academics of the school. That said, a recent plan to overhaul the current course offerings set forth by the Society for the College raises many questions as to how well these evaluations reflect the student population.

The plan presented by the Society generalizes course offerings, preventing students from taking specialized courses in fields like history and English. Furthermore, these generalized courses leave huge gaps in the material covered, requiring knowledge only of American history and government, rather than a more global approach, and blatantly ignoring departments like women’s studies and art history.

The Society may have hosted panels to discuss these changes to the curriculum, but its members clearly do not understand the students at the College, and even more alarmingly, they appear to have made no attempt to do so.

These specialized courses, which the Society says fail to “challenge” students, require in-depth learning and promote critical thinking skills. The courses suggested by the Society seem to be dumbed-down versions of current classes and are reminiscent of high school course offerings. These generalized courses would require enormous class sizes, meaning that students would lose the one-on-one interactions and connections that they currently have with professors.

To add insult to injury, the Society believes these changes are necessary because students are not working hard enough. Anyone involved with the College must realize how much time students dedicate to studying. Even outside of class, students actively engage in many extracurricular activities, oftentimes spreading themselves thin in order to stay involved on campus. With mental health services being such a prominent issue in the student body’s mind, we find it appalling and offensive that anyone would make such an outrageous claim about students’ study habits.

The College has the responsibility to continue to improve itself — and we have. We are still a prominent institution of higher education after 319 years. We are eager to see the changes that the Faculty Steering Committee proposes. While these changes have yet to be unveiled, we can at least rest assured they were created by members of the College who have face-to-face interaction with students on a regular basis.

If these specialized classes have taught us anything, it’s that there is a difference between insulting something and critiquing it; critiquing requires an actual understanding of the matter. Perhaps members of the Society should reconsider what it means to be “for the College” if they do not know or understand the students at the College.

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(1) Reader Comment

  1. Michelle
    April 1, 2012 at 11:13 AM

    I completely agree. Almost all W&M students have taken these general courses in High Schools (and probably excelled). What makes a liberal arts education great is exposure to new and diverse ideas, not the reiteration and rote memorization of the same ones. While I agree that there are problems with the current system, throwing it away in favor of a "College for Dummies" approach is not the answer.

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