One Way by Danielle Kolodkin

Throughout Cathy Davidson’s book, Now You See It, the traditional methods of education are questioned: multitasking, technology, changing generations, etc. As stated in the book, “it’s shocking to think of how much the world has changed since the horse-and-buggy days of Sleepy Hollow and how little has changed within the traditional classroom in America.”  During my experiences as a student I have seen the flaws of the educational system. Students are being bound to the strict set up that has been in place for years and years. For example, every third grader learns the same material as the third grader before. When you enter third grade you already know that you are going to learn how to write in script and do long division because that is what those ahead of you had done. It is a never-ending cycle. In a generation where technology is so prevalent, it is shocking to me that the educational system has not changed with the times. If society and the ways of life are constantly changing, how come the educational system has stayed put? How does this make you believe you will be able to handle what comes at you in the real world if what you are learning is so ten years ago?

 

In the upper educational system, specifically college, there are many flaws that affect the way a student learns. One of the biggest issues for a student is how the liberal arts programs are structured. Liberal arts are defined on Dictionary.com as “academic subjects such as literature, philosophy, mathematics, and the sciences as distinct from professional and technical subjects.” Syracuse University prides itself in its liberal arts curriculum. Like most university there are set requirements for each student and here at Syracuse, the College of Arts and Sciences created a system of core requirements for the student body. According to the home college’s website “The Liberal Arts Core is a set of principles that guides students in the selection of courses…. It was devised and adopted by the faculty of The College of Arts and Sciences to assure that each student’s course of study includes the most important features of an education in the liberal arts.” It is set up in a manner that allows students to choose from a list of courses and he or she must fulfill the minimum in order to graduate.

While comparing the structure of the liberal arts program with the ideas in Davidson’s book, it is apparent that they do not fully agree with one another. In Now You See It, Davidson points out that education needs to adapt to the always transitioning world. Although a liberal arts education is highly valued and widely recognized, it is not meant for everyone. While examining the way that Syracuse University sets up its liberal arts core, it is evident that the system does not work with every type of student. Liberal arts encourages you to be opening the mind to new possibilities and ideas, but each individual cannot be expected to retain all of the information. For example an arts a sciences student must either complete a math or language sequence. But what if the student is like me and struggles in both subject areas? With the grades being weighed in the GPA, it only hurts a student if they are not guaranteed to pass the class.

Students should be able to have no restrictions when it comes to choosing the courses he or she wishes to take to enhance their learning experience. If they want to take a nutrition class or a film class, but it has nothing to do with their major they should be able to do so. If a student wants to focus only on their major and minor they also should have the opportunity to do that. Not every student is cut out to take a language, science, or a math class. By allowing students to have no restrictions and promoting the ability to pick the courses he or she feel would stimulate them could have positive effects. I agree that there needs to be a set amount of credits in order to graduate, but if a student completes that amount and took the classes he or she wanted to take then they would be happy with the experience. Davidson writes, “To be prepared for jobs that have a real future in the digital economy, one needs an emphasis on creative thinking, at all levels.” Without limitations, a student can shape his or her education to the way they want it and can feel confident in his or her knowledge.

In Davidson’s eyes, the liberal arts core structure could be seen as multi-tasking. While you are busy focusing on finishing your major and/or minor, on top of liberal arts requirements, you cannot give everything your proper attention. When I have to take a math class along with my writing classes, I become overwhelmed because I want to pass both. Yet because I am stressing about those classes it is hard to make sure that I am really succeeding in the thing I want the most, which is writing. Expecting a student to manage a liberal arts core along with a major and/or minor disables a student from focusing on what they really want to know. The Liberal Arts Core is in a way multitasking. Look at student example Aimee. She is a Writing and Rhetoric student in the College of Arts and Sciences. If you were to look at her educational history previously to attending the university, you would notice that she excelled in the subject areas of History, English, and Psychology, but struggled with languages and mathematics. Here at Syracuse University she is required to enroll in certain subject areas even though they are her weaknesses. Since she is obligated to partake in all these courses she becomes overwhelmed and it affects her cumulative grade point average. Davidson would argue that because the student has to focus on so many things at once it is restraining her from paying attention to her priority, her major.

The major downfall of the liberal arts education is stating that one system fits all students. Yes it may encourage students to explore all of these opportunities, but like Davidson says, “education can be blamed on the one-size-fits-all model of standards.” The goal of each student is to be successful in life and learn as much as they possibly can. With the traditional educational ways, like the liberal arts curriculum, it discourages and disables students from gaining the information they wish to obtain. If there were no structure and students were able to shape the education they wished to receive, it would yield positive results because then students would be engrossed in the material.

As a student who has faced multiple struggles trying to find a proper structure educationally, I have realized that the liberal arts core has given me the most difficulty. I absolutely love the education I am receiving here and the University itself. However, the format the College of Arts and Sciences has laid out has shown me that unless I am confident in the courses I am taking I will not be able to perform at my best. I believe that one day the system will be able to adapt to all types of people and I feel that Davidson would agree to that.

Credits:

“One size fits all. Welcome to the 80’s” by van Van Es, Creative commons 2.0 http://www.flickr.com/photos/sldghmmr/6041481069/sizes/l/

“HoltBoylesBetty_ReportCard_1Grade (1)” by brad_holt, Creative commons 2.0 http://www.flickr.com/photos/brad_holt/3604854521/

“My favorite book shop” by Bravo_Zulu_, Creative Commons 2.0 http://www.flickr.com/photos/76686348@N05/7982852568/

“BW One Way” by Pank Seelen, Creative commons 2.0 http://www.flickr.com/photos/pankseelen/6339570829/

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About daniellekolodkin

Danielle Kolodkin is currently a junior enrolled at Syracuse University. She is studying Writing and Rhetorical Studies with a minor in public health. As a member of the sorority Kappa Kappa Gamma, she is the present Vice President of Standards. She is a jersey girl hoping to one day cross the Hudson River and join the publishing world in Manhattan. A fan of sports, movies, and books she loves entertainment of all sorts. One day she would like to work for a publishing agency and help produce books that could be meaningful to others just like the ones she had read growing up that had influenced her. Although she believes that reading a book in print is a great way to fall into the story, she is excited to see where the digital world is taking books.

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