Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Eclectic coursework

FSP has a post up today on eclectic courses.

I touched on this subject back when I was in grad school. In my old post, I mentioned a common criticism of a BA with some random-looking courses: the coursework isn’t rigorous enough. The other big criticism, which was raised in the comments to FSP’s post, is that liberal arts students, with their greater freedom of courses available, take all sorts of oddball subjects and don’t learn the fundaments of whatever.

Presumably, even if a student appears to be majoring in a bunch of random stuff, their primary coursework is still organized into a concentration, under the supervision of a department that approved the graduation requirements. And if they want to apply to graduate school (therefore putting aside the straw student who takes the easiest courses available, whether they’re “creative basket-weaving” or “chemistry through true-false exams”), someone should have made it clear that they’d need more than the bare minimum of primary and supporting courses.

So what’s left after you take your recommended number of primary and secondary courses for your major and (possibly) minor? Probably not a large number of classes. If a student takes a few courses that appear to be random and/or easy, but they’ve learned something fundamental to their broader education (how to critically examine a work of art, construct a logical argument, etc), then more power to them.

1 comment:

Lockwood said...

I was very much a non-traditional student. I took pretty much every class in geo that I was allowed to take, including grad-level classes. But I also took all three terms of intro econ, psych, technical journalism, and lots and lots of other classes that I didn't "need." When I decided to pursue science ed, these eclectic classes were a factor in my favor, and probably helped alleviate the fact that my GPA was a few hundredths of a point below what was nominally required.