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Introduction to Bad Ideas

May 18, 2012

Introduction to Philosophy. Introduction to Religious Studies. Introduction to Political Theory. Introduction to Literature. Introduction to Everything that Happened in the History of the World Ever.

Does anyone really believe taking these classes makes a student more liberally educated? Colleges seem to think so, as these classes comprise part of the “general education requirements” at virtually every institute of “higher” education in the country. But based on course descriptions and syllabi, I can learn just as much from the Wiki page on the subject as from the “intro” class and in a fraction of the time, not to mention how difficult it makes it for those of us who have an actual liberal arts education to transfer credits from one institution to the next. Yes, Mr. Registrar, I studied all the books in your school’s Introduction to Western Literature class, but studied them in depth over the course of two years alongside their contemporaneous philosophers. Oh, so all that doesn’t count for your three hours of “general literature requirements”?

If colleges actually wanted to give their students a liberal arts education, they’d need more than sixteen weeks to present the entire oeuvre of philosophy, from Hesiod to Derrida. At best, the student may be able to scratch the surface enough in that semester to be interested in learning more; at worst, the student will feel free to foist his opinions dogmatically upon society-at-large, simply because he “took a class on it” once in college.

Most people fall into that latter category.

So, why not pick one? Ancient Philosophy. Hinduism. American Politics. European Literary Classics. Stuff That Happened between One Day and Another within a Reasonable and Logical Time Frame.

Chances are, by delving deeply into one area of any discipline, you will want to delve into the rest of it, too, and start comparing them yourself. But for the sake of that person forced to sit next to you on the train one day, please don’t take Comparative Religions unless you have at least a few of ’em down pretty well already.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Krueg permalink
    May 18, 2012 2:27 PM

    Amen. Discipline transfers. By delving deeply into a specific topic you also learn how to delve deeply into pretty much any topic.

  2. May 18, 2012 2:57 PM

    Maybe the general education requirements should comprise of read several wiki pages : D

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